Emerging resilience in a family affected by autism
Mierau, Lori Jo-Ann
The purpose of this phenomenological study was to examine the attributes conducive to the healthy adaptation of a family despite having a child with autism to gain a better understanding of autism and the effects of autism on family life. The study comprised a non-random sample of the whole four family members, which includes the child with autism. It is often the family as a whole that is greatly affected by the diagnosis and so all members of the family were deemed essential for the results. Using a phenomenological framework, the study comprised data collected during semi-structured interviews with the four members of one family. The participants were interviewed in a three-step process to determine if qualities of resilience would emerge. Six themes evolved from the participants’ interviews and were used to answer the research questions.Interviews were transcribed and analyzed according to phenomenological procedures seeking the essence of a family’s experience of raising a child with autism. The information gathered during the interviews clarified which factors contribute to the family’s resilience. The researcher gained background knowledge of the guiding principles the family has used to overcome many of the challenges of autism. As well, direction and insight intended for other families with a child with autism were gained. The contributing characteristics and attributes that emerged from the data were: acceptance and understanding; adaptability and flexibility; self-efficacy; strength and determination; and support from family or community.The findings support the existing understanding of factors that contribute to resilience in families affected by autism. The data collected during the interviews revealed that the participants share many of the same feelings of frustration, guilt and stress as other families affected by autism but also attain strength and a sense of hope or optimism for the future. Once the parents were able to move through the cycle of grief their healthy adaptation became apparent. The themes derived from the lived experiences of the participants demonstrate how they have emerged from adversity with resilience.
DegreeMaster of Education (M.Ed.)
DepartmentEducational Psychology and Special Education
ProgramEducational Psychology and Special Education
CommitteeNoonan, Brian; McVittie, Janet