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Self-harm and autism

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Hi Everyone

I am doing research as part of my clinical psychology training with Staffordshire University. I'm really interested in speaking to parents of children who have a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and who self-harm by cutting themselves. There's lots of research out there about children with autism who hurt themselves by means like banging their head, but nothing at all about children with autism who cut themselves, or how this impacts on parents.

I'm looking to speak to parents of children between the ages of 12-18yrs. Children need to have a formal diagnosis of autism, and unfortunately can't have a diagnosed learning disability. Children don't have to be actively cutting now, but I can't speak to parents if their child's self harm occurred over a year ago.

Interviews would be by Skype, but they could be by telephone if that feels more comfortable for you. Interviews might typically take around an hour, but really they can be as long or as short as you'd like to make it. We can arrange a time to talk that suits you; daytime, evenings, or weekends.

This is all confidential, non-judgemental and ethically approved. If you'd like space to talk, vent or share your story then I'd love to hear from you. If you'd like to take part or have got any questions about this research, please feel free to email me privately at:  [email protected]

Many thanks, your help is much appreciated.


Any reason to focus on talking to parents rather than autistic people themselves?

I wondered the same thing. SH is often kept secret from others especially with teenagers.

Thanks for your messages

There are a few reasons why this research focuses on parents rather than young people with autism.
A primary reason is that because there is so limited research in this area, this research is an exploratory and open study. Given the difficulties that some people with autism may have with social interaction and communication, it is potentially a big ask to discuss very personal issues with a stranger via Skype where the questions will be quite abstract and open to interpretation. This isnít to say that someone with autism wouldnít be able to complete an interview, but research cannot be conducted that puts participants in any discomfort. 
Another main reason is that the research requires open discussion about self-harm which may be very triggering for people currently cutting - interviewing young people would be distinctly less ethical due to the increased likelihood of causing them distress.
Also, as you mention, teenagers often donít like to discuss their self harm, which means that at health appointments it is often the voice of parents that professionals hear, as parents advocate for their children. This means that the parents views are often the ones that professionals are working with, and this is especially true in many autism services.
Finally there is lots of evidence which suggests that parents will be strongly affected by their child self-harming, so it is important to speak with parents to find out what they go through themselves and whether there needs to be more support in services for parents as well as their children.
Hope that helps and do let me know if you have any thoughts :)

Isn't it your job to make the research accessible to people with Autism? Yes, they may experience discomfort, but they may also feel that taking part would still be worthwhile. Would you like other people to speak for you? Surely, the research might also put the parents in some discomfort? I suspect that you have gone for this option as it is easier and quicker for you to get ethical clearance for it and that the research will benefit you, as you will complete your qualification, but I cannot see it being of real benefit to people with Autism.


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