Date of Award

2002

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Human Development

Advisor

Sandra L. Caron

Second Committee Member

Betty Crossman

Third Committee Member

Gary Schilmoeller

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of having a child with autism on the family. The study is comprised of a non-random sample of 21 families with children who have been diagnosed with autism. The parent who is the primary caregiver of these children was interviewed about recognitiorddiagnosis of autism in their child, services accessed, and the impact of having a child with autism on their family. The results of these interviews suggest that families who have a child with autism share many of the same feels of frustration, stress, constant need for schedules, and also feelings of hope and goals for the future. Even after a diagnosis is made, that is just that start to a world that can be more about paperwork and waiting lists than a day at the park or a week's vacation. Once parents move past some of the feelings of sadness, guilt and trauma, they find themselves searching for services that can seem unobtainable. Even when services are found, there can be a lack of qualified people to fill the positions which leads to even more frustration. It is often the family as a whole that is greatly affected by the diagnosis, whether it is the parent(s) running to an appointment for their child with autism or completing another piece of paperwork, or the aunt watching the child for a couple of hours so that the parents can have some time alone away from home. Implications for those working in the area of autism are discussed.

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