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Caregivers of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Rural Areas: A Literature Review of Mental Health and Social Support

      Highlights

      • Urban and rural caregivers of children with ASD have high levels of stress.
      • Some rural caregivers reported not feeling respected by healthcare professionals.
      • Navigating ASD resources can be difficult and increase stress for some caregivers.
      • Rural caregivers felt like they were left to navigate resources on their own.
      • Parent-intervention programs decrease stress for caregivers.

      Abstract

      Problem

      Caregivers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) report high levels of stress, social isolation, and poor mental health. Social and emotional support may buffer negative effects of stress for caregivers of children with ASD, however, those living in rural areas may be disadvantaged due to social isolation and increased distance from resources. This scoping review examined the literature regarding the mental health and impact of support for rural caregivers of children with ASD.

      Eligibility criteria

      Articles were limited to those available in the English language and conducted in a high income country. Articles had to include a population of rural caregivers of children with ASD and focus on caregiver mental health and/or the impact of support on caregiver mental health.

      Sample

      Searches were conducted with Embase, PubMed, CINAHL, ERIC, and PsycINFO and 22 articles were included.

      Results

      Study findings indicate overall poor mental health for rural caregivers of children with ASD. Formal and informal support appear to be beneficial in decreasing stress for rural caregivers of children with ASD. However, a few studies indicated that formal support may add stress to rural caregivers.

      Conclusion

      There is limited information regarding support needs and the impact of support services on the mental health of rural caregivers of children with ASD.

      Implications

      There is a need to increase access to support resources in rural areas for caregivers of children with ASD. Healthcare professionals, including nurses, can play a fundamental role in supporting, educating, and connecting caregivers to other support services.

      Keywords

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