Social workers who are working with children with autism can expect to work for much longer than their counterparts who are not working with the same clients, a new study finds.
A growing body of research suggests that social workers who work with children have a higher likelihood of developing autism and other behavioral and learning problems, especially in their late teens and 20s.
Social workers also report more problems with social isolation, which is related to having low self-esteem, less social support and poor coping strategies.
A recent National Institute of Mental Health study found that more than half of social workers surveyed experienced social isolation in the past year.
Social worker Daniela Hernández-Ruiz, whose research focuses on the social-intellectual and emotional development of children, says the new research confirms her belief that social-intervention is important for all children.
She said the study shows how important it is to intervene early to help children become better at managing social interactions.
Social-interventions are critical to help foster healthy relationships and avoid harmful behaviors that can harm the child.
Hernárdez-Roz says that in addition to social-development, a child needs to be able to develop social skills, including empathy, respect and sensitivity.
Social skills can also be a positive factor for a child’s academic performance and health.
Social workers can use this research to help ensure that social skills are developed before children are exposed to other kinds of social problems.
It also means more social workers are being trained to address social isolation and how to manage it.
Hervé Baranowsky, executive director of the Association for Social Work Research, a nonprofit research organization that supports the field of social work, said that there are no data to prove or disprove whether social intervention reduces autism risk.
But he said social-educational programs are necessary for children who have behavioral problems and may not be getting the appropriate help.
Baranowsky said social workers should consider having their children evaluated by an autism expert, so that their concerns about social isolation are investigated.
He also said the new study suggests that parents who are anxious about their children’s behavior can be helped by having them attend social skills training, so they know what to look out for.
In a statement, Rockstar Social Club, the parent and child-centered social-advocacy group that commissioned the study, said it was “surprised” by the findings and said it supports social workers’ efforts to work with autistic children.
The club also supports social-education programs that support families who struggle with social issues.
“Parents and families deserve to be treated as equal members of society and to be given the support they need,” said the statement.