We're developing a new therapy to protect families from the harmful effects of stigma and isolation after a diagnosis of autism.  

Caregivers play a crucial role in an autistic child's life but studies show that many are affected by the stigma of autism. They are often isolated, have low self esteem and lack social support.

‘SOLACE’ is a support programme that aims to support parents and carers to challenge and reject the stigma around autism. This is the first time a stigma support intervention like this has been developed for carers of autistic children. This study will test how effective the intervention is for those who receive the support.

The process

The team will recruit 32 parents or carers of children who have been recently diagnosed with an autistic spectrum disorder or who expect to receive a diagnosis soon. 

The group will be split in two. One group will take part in the SOLACE support group, while the other group will not receive SOLACE and continue as they otherwise would (the 'control’ group).

The SOLACE group will run once a week for eight weeks. During group sessions, parents and carers will discuss strategies and share experiences with other. A private Facebook group will also be setup for further discussions. On the 9th week, SOLACE participants will meet again to give feedback on the group sessions. This input will provide valuable information to improve the SOLACE group support programme in the future. Six weeks later participants will be asked for the impact the group has had over time. 

Those in the ‘control group’ will be asked questions before the study starts and 8-9 weeks later. These responses will be compared with the SOLACE group.

How this project is making a difference

Through this project, we will find if the SOLACE intervention effectively reduces the effects of the stigma. We hope to see improvements in self esteem, positive associations with caregiving and a reduction in self blame and loneliness. If the study is a success, it will improve psychological well being and quality of life for the caregiver. This in turn will allow parents or carers to provide good support to their child early on.

As with any research of this kind, if we prove this intervention is successful it is more likely to be rolled out as a service to those who would benefit.