Parents' experiences of accessing respite care for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at the acute and primary care interface: a systematic review.

Peer-reviewed article
(2020 May) BMC Pediatr, 20 244


Cooke E, Smith V, Brenner M



Population prevalence estimates by the World Health Organisation suggest that 1 in 160 children worldwide has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Accessing respite care services for children with an ASD can often be a daunting and exhaustive process, with parents sometimes forced to access acute hospital services as an initial point of contact for respite care or in a crisis situation. To gain an in-depth understanding of accessing respite care for children with an ASD, from the perspectives of parents, a systematic review of the evidence on parent's experiences and views of respite care for children with an ASD at the acute and primary interface was undertaken.


Pubmed, Embase, CINAHL and PsycINFO were systematically searched. Studies identified as relevant based on predetermined eligibility criteria were selected for inclusion. The search strategy also targeted unpublished studies and grey literature. Qualitative data and qualitative components of mixed method studies that represented the experiences of parents accessing respite care for children with an ASD were eligible for inclusion. A meta-aggregative approach was used during data synthesis.


Database searching elicited 430 records of which 291 studies remained after removal of duplicates. These 291 studies were screened for title and abstract by two reviewers resulting in 31 studies to be screened at full text and assessed for eligibility. Six studies met the inclusion criteria and a further additional study also met the inclusion criteria during a manual search. As a result, 7 studies were selected for the review as set out in Fig. 1.


In the absence of appropriate services and defined pathways to support services such as respite care, overwhelmed parents and community providers of mental health resources may not be in a position to meet the specific needs of children with an ASD and their families which may be contributing to a direct increase in hospitalizations. This systematic review identified a number of barriers to respite care, of which the findings can be used to inform future service development and further research. Knowledge of parental experiences in caring for a child with an ASD is vital in addressing the need and type of respite care required for children with an ASD.


PROSPERO CRD42018106629.