Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Teaching & Learning


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to understand the experiences and perceptions parents of a child with an autism spectrum disorder have had. The study addressed the following research question: What were the parents' experiences and perspectives with regard to their child's diagnosis and treatment options?

For this interview study, 12 parents of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder were ultimately selected and interviewed. The audio recorded interviews were transcribed and then examined for "significant statement" sentences. Next, clusters of meaning were developed into themes. These "significant statements" and themes were then used to create the formulated meanings of the participants' experiences. These formulated meanings were shared with three experts in the field of autism spectrum disorders to combat researcher bias. Finally, the formulated meaning statements were compiled to write a composite description that captured the essence of the participants' experience.

Seven themes emerged from the data analysis: (a) Despite parents expressing the concern for their child's development, the diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder was not confirmed until years and/or doctor visits later. (b) Upon learning of their child's diagnosis, there was lack of guidance from medical professionals. (c) There were limited daycare options for parents, resulting in one parent quitting his or her job. This, along with insurance difficulties, was a financial burden. (d) The parents were torn between their child with autism and their other children, family members, and friends. (e) There was a concern for their child's future. (f) Parents expressed feelings of being judged by the public because their child may look "normal" but does not behave in that manner. (g) There was a belief that vaccinations may have played some role in causing their child's autism.

Raising a child with an autism spectrum disorder is a difficult endeavor. The barriers and hardships that parents encounter may be lessened if the medical community and education professionals work together to give these parents the guidance they need and desire.

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