Date of Paper

5-2014

Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)

Department

Social Work

First Advisor

Catherine Marrs Fuchsel

Abstract

This qualitative research study explored the experiences of families who have a child diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Surveys were sent out to families at a local agency, and seven parents responded. The survey investigated the impact of the child’s diagnosis on the parental relationship, stress levels, feelings of social support, and self-care techniques. The objective of this study was to gain a better understanding of the experiences of these families with an autistic child, and to gain insight into where they need more support from professionals in the field. The content of the surveys was transcribed, coded, and themes were drawn out to draw conclusions about common experiences.

The findings revealed five common themes: (a) positive impacts on the parent’s relationship, (b) negative impacts on the parent’s relationship, (c) increased overall stressors, (d) lack of social support, (e) and the importance of self-care. While previous research addresses effective intervention strategies for children and parents with autism, this project provides a framework for social workers to utilize in their therapeutic work with families who have a child with autism. These findings also uncover implications for future research. There is a need for more detailed research investigating what the experiences of having a child with autism are like for families. This includes gathering more information around the impact on parental relationships, stressors, self-care techniques, and need for more support.

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