Parental understandings of the meaning of autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Kylara Jean Leyva, University of Texas at El Paso

Abstract

This study examines how parents understand autism, their child’s behavior and development. Parents can understand their child’s behavior and development through a medical model perspective, which sees the child’s autism as a series of deficits and deviations. However, a growing number of parents understand their child’s behavior and development through a neurodiversity perspective, where a child is seen as having differences in behavior, instead of deficits. Parents’ understandings of autism can influence how they see their child’s behavior and development and be a driver for seeking diagnosis. In-depth interviews were conducted with parents of children with autism to probe for parents’ experiences before and up to the diagnosis of autism. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed for emergent themes. The central theme for this thesis was “meaning of autism” and additional subthemes emerged in relation to the meaning of autism for parents. Subthemes that emerged included how parents talked about autism, factors that influenced how parents understood autism, and how parents accepted the diagnosis of autism. Parents’ understanding of autism changed based on their knowledge of autism. As parents learned more and interacted more with other parents and children with autism, the meaning of autism changed for them. While some parents understanding of autism can lean more towards one model or the other, many parents used a combination of medical model and neurodiversity understandings finding each useful in different situations. ^

Subject Area

Social research|Mental health|Clinical psychology|Individual & family studies

Recommended Citation

Leyva, Kylara Jean, "Parental understandings of the meaning of autism spectrum disorder (ASD)" (2017). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10619452.
https://digitalcommons.utep.edu/dissertations/AAI10619452

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