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Implementing a Mental Health Care Program and Home-Based Training for Mothers of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder in an Urban Population in Bangladesh: Protocol for a Feasibility Assessment Study

Aliya Naheed, Kamrun Nahar Koly, Helal Uddin Ahmed, Shaheen Akhter, M M Jalal Uddin, Mary C Smith Fawzi, Subhash Chandir, Muzharul Mannan, Saima Hossain, Charles Nelson, Kerim Munir
JMIR Research Protocols 2017 December 14, 6 (12): e251
29242177

BACKGROUND: Mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have reported a higher level of depression than mothers of children with other neurodevelopmental disorders in both developed and developing countries. Mothers are the lifetime caregivers of children with ASD, and a high burden of depression can negatively impact their ability to provide care. However, access to mental health services in primary care is limited, given the scarcity of qualified providers in Bangladesh.

OBJECTIVE: We aim to pilot the feasibility of integrating mental health services for the mothers of children with ASD attending schools offering ASD care and improve skills of mothers for child care through a home-based training program.

METHODS: The study will be conducted in two selected schools in Dhaka in Bangladesh that have been offering services for ASD for more than 10 years. A female psychologist will be deployed at the schools to offer nonpharmacological services for all mothers having a depressive episode. Referral for pharmacological treatment will be made at the discretion of supervising psychiatrists. An ASD special educator will provide training to the mothers for enhancing their child care skills at home on a monthly basis. The proposed intervention package will be implemented over a period of 4-6 months, and the feasibility of the intervention will be assessed through a pre- and postintervention evaluation by obtaining the perspectives of various stakeholders involved in the implementation of mental health services and maternal training. The primary outcome will include assessment of acceptability, adaptability, demand, practicality, implementation, and integration of the package intervention in the school settings. The secondary outcomes will include assessment of: 1) the prevalence of maternal depression; 2) children's behavioral, social, and communication skills; and 3) the intervention participation costs incurred by institutions and families.

RESULTS: Between February and March 2017, 188 mothers of children with ASD were screened for depression following a written informed consent. Based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV), the Structured Clinical Interview for the DSM-IV (SCID-1) was administered to 66 mothers. In-depth interviews were conducted with 10 mothers and 8 various stakeholders. Between January-June 2017, the team finalized a draft psychosocial counseling module and a maternal training module. Between April-May 2017, mental health services were provided by psychologists to 41 mothers who attended the counseling centers at each school. Three special educators have been trained in June 2017 to initiate training of the participating mothers.

CONCLUSIONS: This is the first study of a mental health intervention for mothers of children with ASD to reduce their burden of depression and improve the outcomes of their children. The findings will inform the provision of services for children with ASD and their mothers in Bangladesh and similar settings.

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