Systematic Review of Parents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Children in Southeast Asia: Work-related Factors



Raising a child is a demanding task, but for parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the challenges are amplified. These children require significant care and support, often including therapies, specialized education, and emotional guidance. This can create a significant burden, particularly for working parents who must balance their careers with their children’s needs.

A recent study published in July 2024 by the Malaysian Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities (MJSSH) shed light on this specific concern. The research, titled “Systematic Review of Parents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Children in Southeast Asia: Work-related Factors,” aimed to explore how much research has been done on the work challenges faced by parents of children with ASD in Southeast Asian countries.


Delving into the Research


The researchers conducted a meticulous review process, sifting through major academic databases like Scopus, PubMed, and Web of Science. They specifically looked for studies focusing on parents of ASD children residing in Southeast Asia. Importantly, they excluded systematic reviews and meta-analyses to ensure their focus remained on primary research that directly explored the lived experiences of these parents.


A Surprising Gap in Knowledge


The review process yielded 38 studies that met the inclusion criteria. However, a surprising finding emerged. Despite the significant challenges faced by working parents with ASD children, the research on work-related factors was scarce. Only five studies, all from Malaysia and Singapore, even briefly mentioned these challenges. These mentions were often tangential, discussed within a broader context, and not the main focus of the research.


A Call for Further Exploration


This limited focus on work-related factors highlights a significant gap in our current understanding of the experiences of working parents raising children with ASD in Southeast Asia. The authors of the study call for further investigation into this underrepresented population.


Beyond the Numbers: Understanding the Nuances


Future research shouldn’t just explore the work struggles faced by these parents; it should delve deeper. Here are some crucial aspects to consider:

  • Individual Circumstances: The severity of the child’s ASD can vary greatly. Access to support systems, such as extended family or therapy services, and family dynamics can also significantly impact work experiences. Research should explore how these individual circumstances shape the challenges faced by working parents.
  • Gender Roles: Cultural norms around gender roles can influence how work and childcare responsibilities are divided within families. Understanding these gender-based differences is crucial to developing effective support systems.
  • Cultural and Religious Contexts: Southeast Asia is a region rich in cultural and religious diversity. These factors can significantly impact work-life balance and access to support systems. Future research should explore how cultural norms and religious beliefs influence the experiences of working parents with ASD children.


Building a More Supportive Environment


By gaining a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by working parents with ASD children in Southeast Asia, researchers and policymakers can develop better support systems. This could include:

  • Workplace Flexibility: Policies that allow for flexible work schedules, remote work options, or access to childcare facilities on-site can significantly reduce stress for working parents.
  • Financial Assistance: The financial costs associated with raising a child with ASD can be substantial. Government programs or employer-sponsored benefits can help alleviate this burden.
  • Support Groups and Training: Connecting parents with each other and providing training on ASD can empower them to advocate for their children’s needs and manage their own well-being.




While some research has been conducted on parents of children with ASD in Southeast Asia, the specific challenges faced by working parents remain under-explored. This new study underscores the need for further research that considers individual circumstances, gender roles, and the unique cultural and religious contexts of Southeast Asia. By gaining a better understanding of these challenges, we can work towards creating a more supportive environment for these dedicated parents, allowing them to balance their careers and provide the love and care their children with ASD need.



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