• Autism;
  • developmental disabilities;
  • family stress model;
  • mindfulness

Parents of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are at an increased risk for acute and chronic stress compared to parents of children with other developmental disabilities and parents of children without disabilities. It is plausible that the stressors of having a child with ASD affect the couple relationship; however, few researchers have focused on this dynamic within these families. In this article, we seek to develop a model for how stress operates in families with children with ASD. In developing this new stress model, we describe the characteristics of ASD, discuss stressors that are pronounced in families of children with ASD as supported by the literature, and highlight the limitations of Perry's (2004) model in application to this population. Our expanded stress model includes the addition of parenting couple resources and parenting couple outcomes. Finally, we demonstrate how to apply the model using a mindfulness intervention to promote positive outcomes and strengthen the couple relationship.