Examining treatment adherence among parents of children with autism spectrum disorder

Robert Hock, Ph.D., Anne Kinsman, Ph.D., Andrew Ortaglia, Ph.D.
Disability and Health Journal, July 2015 Volume 8, Issue 3, Pages 407–413


Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) participate in a variety of treatments, including medication, behavioral, alternative and developmental treatments. Parent adherence to these treatments is crucial for positive child outcomes.


The current study: 1) Explored patterns of parent adherence across the full range of treatments that are prescribed to children with ASD and, 2) Examined whether parent demographics, parent treatment attitudes, and child ASD severity contribute to parents’ adherence across ASD treatments.


Questionnaires were distributed to parents of children with ASD in a southeastern state. Parents (N = 274) were included if they were parenting a child with ASD who was receiving treatment for ASD symptoms. Paired t-tests and multiple linear regression were used to assess the study aims.


Adherence to medication treatment was significantly greater than adherence to behavioral, developmental, or alternative treatments (adjusted p-values 0.0006, 0.0030, 0.0006 respectively). Perceived family burden of a treatment was associated with lower adherence to medication, developmental, and alternative treatments. Finally, greater ASD severity was associated with lower adherence to alternative treatments.


Overall, the independent variables accounted for more variance in adherence to medication and alternative treatments than in behavioral and developmental treatments. Parents’ adherence to ASD treatment differs significantly by treatment type and is influenced by parental perceptions of the burden of treatment on the family. These findings highlight the importance of understanding and addressing the impact of ASD treatment regimens on family life.