Increasing demand for autism services is straining service systems. Tailoring services to best meet families’ needs could improve their quality of life and decrease burden on the system. We explored overall, best, and worst met service needs, and predictors of those needs, for families of children with autism spectrum disorders.
Parents of 143 children with autism spectrum disorders (2–18 years) completed a survey including demographic and descriptive information, the Family Needs Survey–Revised, and an open-ended question about service needs. Descriptive statistics characterize the sample and determine the degree to which items were identified and met as needs. Predictors of total and unmet needs were modeled with regression or generalized linear model. Qualitative responses were thematically analyzed.
The most frequently identified overall and unmet service needs were information on services, family support, and respite care. The funding and quality of professional support available were viewed positively. Decreased child’s age and income and being an older mother predicted more total needs. Having an older child or mother, lower income, and disruptive behaviors predicted more total unmet needs, yet only disruptive behaviors predicted proportional unmet need. Child’s language or intellectual abilities did not predict needs.
Findings can help professionals, funders, and policy-makers tailor services to best meet families’ needs.