What is Autism Parent Navigators (APN)
Autism Parent Navigators is a brief, six-session program for individual families with a young child newly diagnosed with Autism led by an experienced parent mentor. The program helps parents transition into strong advocates for and engaged partners in their child’s long-term services and treatments. APN achieves this goal in a manner unlike any existing program: APN helps parents strengthen key parenting team support, communication and problem-solving skills at the same time as parents discuss their own adjustment to the ASD diagnosis, parenting strategies, and critical ASD-related decisions.
In other words, APN was developed to support parents’ adjustment to an ASD diagnosis by focusing on the recommendations of ASD experts to help parents (1) accept the diagnosis through support of another experienced, ASD parent mentor; (2) gain experience and guidance in managing the new world of ASD health care, educational, and treatment resources; and (3) build a cooperative, supportive parenting team approach to raising a child with ASD
Why do parents of a young child with Autism need Parent Navigators?
The diagnosis of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) poses unique stressors and demands on parents, leading to a higher risk of depression and anxiety disorders compared to parents of children with other conditions (e.g., Down syndrome, Type 1 diabetes) or no disability. Parent stress, depression, and conflict reduce parents’ ability to adhere to the very treatments that have the best chance of reducing children’s lifelong ASD symptoms and health care needs, leading to lower effectiveness of early intervention on children’s behavioral and academic outcomes. In sum, parents’ stress, depression, and anxiety around a child’s ASD diagnosis may have a negative impact on the future well-being of the child, contribute to worsening child behavior problems over time, and in a vicious cycle leading to further increased parental stress.
Yes, but there are already too many services and treatments to manage! Why create another?
Research demonstrates that parents’ early adjustment to the ASD diagnosis is critical: parents’ difficulty with acceptance, self-blame, and despair around the time of the child’s diagnosis predicts parents’ future stress, anxiety and depression. APN was designed to be a brief, six-session program to help parents transition into a strong parenting team to help: (1) Enhance consistency in the home environment, routines, and parenting practices—which is especially valuable for children with ASD. (2) Enhance family adherence to behavioral and medical ASD treatments, and thus lower levels of ASD symptom severity and children’s lifelong adjustment.