This week I’m welcoming my PhD student, Joy Tsai, who is a clinical psychologist from Taiwan and just coming to the end of a PhD researching the experiences of brothers and sisters of children with autism. You can download a TUKS UK summary report here.
Finally, it comes to the final stage that I can tidy up the research results which my supervisors and I have been working on. TUKS research, looking at the siblings of children with autism, how they adjust and respond to having a brother or sister on the spectrum, in both Taiwan and the UK.
To conduct a cross-cultural research sounds very cool, to be honest, it is really a huge amount of work! Not to mention that I have to follow the unfamiliar policy system in the UK, the language barrier sometimes makes the work load three times more than the native speaker. What I have learnt from this process is that it is never too early to get these procedures done as soon as your research protocol has been settled. Because you never know how long the council will give for permission to contact schools and how research ethics committees would like you to modify the research protocol. Nevertheless, it is very important to follow these procedures, since our research focuses on the family of children with autism, and the research aims to explore the experience of children and adolescents under 18 years old.
When I look back at the past three years, I am extremely thankful for the help from every single person I have met, from the school headteachers to council staff, and different research organizations. Most of all are the parents and siblings that kindly share their experience with us. Checking my contacting data, I can’t believe there were nearly 700 emails and phone calls made during the recruitment process. We were very fortunate that we ended up with 77 pairs of parent and sibling to participate in this research, which are 154 touching and invaluable stories that have been shared with the team.
As for administration, finding the measurements that are suitable for Taiwan and the UK is quite challenging. Firstly, we have to identify measurements which can capture the ideas that we would like to assess. Secondly, all the measurements have to have either Chinese or English version. Lastly, for those which don’t have both languages a very long translation procedure has to follow. To make sure the wording translated accurately, we needed to translate the measurement between Chinese and English several times and then evaluate the consistency between different versions. As a final check, linguistic professionals and clinical psychologist colleagues looked over the results to agree on a finished version. Hence, without these colleagues, friends and families, this research could not have been done.
Being a practicing clinical psychologist in Taiwan and having a sibling with special needs, this is also quite a journey for me. I am glad we identified several factors that related to siblings’ adjustment and could provide practical suggestions for parents and the school system. As for those who participated in the interviews, those vivid stories flash back many times in my head and took back to a time when I was their age. It is very encouraging that policy, school and support systems have been improved compared to decades ago. If I could tell the 10 year old me, I would wish to tell her, like those siblings shared with me “Really you can get through it, anything that happens, you will get through it”.
Thanks again whether you are parents, siblings or friends and colleagues, you are the ones who make this work happen. Also thanks for our siblings, who teach us so much.