How Developmental Disorders Impact Marriages: A Closer Look

It’s true that having a child with a developmental disorder (DD) is never easy; the accompanying uncertainty and stress of finding quality treatments, diagnoses and balance can take a toll on a couple’s marriage. However, the media’s portrayal of the impact of DDs on families and marriages often generalizes, painting a truly bleak and somewhat misleading picture -- one that makes divorce seem like it’s looming around the corner for every family.

While many people are quick to assume that divorce rates are higher for families under these circumstances, decades of studies have produced unclear findings on the matter. A 2004 meta-analysis of six studies found that parents of kids with a DD had an average of 5.97 percent more divorces than parents without a kid with a DD. On the other hand, a literature review of current studies explained that having a child with a DD has been shown to have small negative effects on a marriage, but that most marriages last and are reported to be of good quality. In fact, over 70 percent of these marriages do survive.These studies show that the marital quality of parents with children with DDs varies widely and that while we should not generalize, identifying trends that cause marital strain can illuminate ways to alleviate stress and improve the lives of couples, families and children alike. For example, research revealed that behavioral issues (such as those associated with ADHD and ASD) were “consistently shown to be the strongest predictor” of parenting stress and parents of children with more frequent and severe behavioral problems resulted in lower marital satisfaction. Research on families of children with autism also found parenting stress to be more strongly associated with the severity of behavior problems than intellectual disability status or other autism symptoms.

In terms of other stressors, one study theorized that “the uncertainty surrounding ASD diagnosis and often long diagnostic odyssey to reach a diagnosis of ASD” contributed to a worsened sense of well-being among parents of kids with ASD. By contrast, studies of parents of children with Down syndrome noted that “the certainty and early timing of diagnosis of Down syndrome, relatively low levels of parenting stress, positive views on caretaking, and overall positive psychological well-being experienced by parents of children with Down syndrome may help promote positive marital interactions.” Consequently, it appears that marital stress directly relates to specific diagnoses and issues of uncertainty and behavior, rather than affecting all marriages equally.

Since marital quality and a child’s well-being both have an effect on one another, this research is crucial. Just as the severity of a child’s disability or particular diagnosis can affect a marriage, environmental factors such as marriage quality have been found to strongly impact a child’s well-being and development. Research further predicts that the marital stress of parents of children with DDs experience could be ameliorated with the creation of a supportive network and family-focused interventions.

Uncertainty of diagnosis and feeling a lack of control, especially as it pertains to ASD and behavioral issues, seem to be prominent causes of familial and marital stress. To combat these factors, Trayt focuses on streamlining communication with doctors and giving parents the ability to track symptoms and see how treatments are working. In doing so, Trayt can improve diagnostics and efficacy of treatment while providing a platform for both parents to feel more in control of their child’s health. As such, Trayt hopes to revolutionize healthcare, reduce the stress that too often comes with a child’s DD diagnosis and give families and their children a better quality of life.

Community Perspective: Trayt CTO Hitesh Kalra on the future of AI in the neurodevelopmental space

Recently, there has been a lot discussion around artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in the diagnosis and treatment of autism and other similar disorders.

There is clearly vast potential, but the critical point is that these technologies must both learn from and serve existing medical trends and protocols. The fundamental nature of child development and social communication is not well understood by human experts, so technology must aid, not oversimplify, its approach to symptoms, conditions and treatment associated with autism, Fragile X or other similar disorders.

For machine learning to truly be effective, it requires vast amounts of training data. With the advent of connected/IoT devices in the marketplace, we will see an increase in the frequency and variety of the types of signals that can be automatically and passively captured, providing a slew of real-time data for machine learning algorithms to learn from.

Trayt is well positioned to contribute to this trend. We are working to gather information from sleep monitors, heart rate sensors, audio sensors, connected cameras and environmental sensors; then, we will correlate it with additional information captured from the Trayt app, such as symptoms severity and frequency, genetic information, medication and therapy adherence information, side effects, patient demographics, medical background and more.

We will not only be able to continuously expand the breadth of information available from what we capture, but also offer a much more nuanced set of insights to our users. This ongoing addition of sophisticated data will help to refine the findings and allow for a real-time view of progress of patient outcomes, which will in turn help to tailor treatment and optimize the effectiveness of medications and therapies.

Robots are also being considered as a tool for treating autism symptoms. However, my view is that for kids with social-communicative issues, nothing can replace face-to-face interactions with other kids, their therapists or other adults guiding the interactions. Robots have a place as a prop in the environment where they can capture signals - like visual posture, face emotions and sound to capture voice - which can then be fed into machine learning algorithms to measure the effectiveness of the therapies and patient outcomes over time. However, they should not be used in place of real human interaction.

While there has been positive progress in the application of advanced technology towards treating autism and similar disorders, it should continue to do so under the caution that it is not, and might not ever be, in a place where it can be relied upon independently. The human mind is far too complex to currently be captured and adequately transcribed into a line of code - especially the minds of children who are still in their developmental phases and are affected by social communication disorders.

Trayt helps bridge the connection between authentic human interactions and the largescale sourcing of data that will help to inform these technologies and continue to improve the lives of patients with autism and other disorders.

Community Perspective: Trayt CMO Dr. Carl Feinstein on AI in Diagnosis and Treatment of Autism

Community Perspective: Trayt CMO Dr. Carl Feinstein on AI in Diagnosis and Treatment of Autism

For many years, the tech community has made important contributions to the medical sphere. For example, the development of protheses has helped people with disabilities overcome sensory deficits, loss of function and hearing/speaking impairments. And now, technologists are turning their efforts to remediating social communication barriers that hamper people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in their adaptation to the community, school, work and cultural/recreational opportunities.