Autism is defined as a pervasive disorder in development which is characterized by difficulty in communication, relating with other people, and in understanding abstract arguments. This condition is evident from early childhood and as a result it is the parent or guardian of the autistic child who is the caregiver. It is essential to note that to most of these parents autism is a relatively new condition and so dealing with the behaviors of this condition is hard. Keok (8) indicates that having an autistic child has a considerable impact on the psychosocial wellness of parents. This is mainly because the parent is aware that their decisions are vital in the future wellbeing of their children (Chang, Tsai and Lin 2735). This study aims on establishing how parents of autistic children cope with this spectrum disorder. However, before embarking on primary research, it is essential to conduct a secondary research to establish various theoretical concepts, gaps in knowledge and challenges that previous studies faced.
Autistic children display several self-destructive and aggressive conducts. These children also experience impaired communication and reduced social interaction. According to Kluge and Altier (83), dealing with an autistic child has unique stressors and challenges despite the severity of the symptoms. The two authors argue that these challenges are principally because most parents during the pregnancy period look forward to a healthy child. As a result, the birth of an autistic child disorients all the plans they had for their child and this consequently becomes a stressor as they try to adapt to the realities of raising an autistic child (Chang, Tsai and Lin 2732). The authors also point out that the ambiguity of most of the diagnosis provided by pediatricians increases the confusion that prevails when parents discover their child is autistic. This confusion consequently becomes a stressor for the parent.
While Kluge and Altier highlight most of the psychosocial problems faced by parents of autistic children, the study by Lee focuses on the economic and health related problems. Lee (94) points out that the need for specialized education and resources for autistic children is a considerable challenge that is bound to act as a stressor, especially in tough economic times. The author notes that autistic children require respite care, protection against injury and specialized medical care. Lee (95) makes an argument similar to that by Kluge and Altier (83): most of the challenges resulting from raising autistic children are different from what the parents expected. Lee (95) further argues that the likelihood of this difference to become a stressor is aggravated when the parents are in a social circle where their friends have normal children within the same age group. The argument here is that the parents of the autistic children tend to compare what they would have hoped to have by observing their friends’ children with their autistic child.
Obaid (104) highlights the various coping stages that parents with autistic children through on realizing their about their child’s behavioral disorder. The author argues that the first stage is denial, followed by anger, then guilt, bargaining and in the end acceptance of their child’s medical condition. These coping stages are defined as a readjusting process for the parents’ feelings, beliefs, attitudes and perceptions about themselves and their autistic child (King, G., Zwaigenbaum, King, S. and Baxter 353). Obaid (104) classifies the coping strategies in two types: mal-adaptive and adaptive strategies. Mal-adaptive strategies are that that are used to minimize the emotional response of the parents to stressful situation. However, it is essential to note that mal-adaptive strategies only effective in the short term and cause greater challenges in the long run. Adaptive strategies are those approaches used increase adaptation to stressful circumstances and to consequently reduce the stress a parent has to endure.
The stressors and challenges that parents of autistic children undergo have been a subject of research in numerous studies. However, most of the available studies are biased towards the negative impacts of raising an autistic child. As a result, most of the information and advice parents of autistic children receive cause them to employ mal-adaptive strategies which in the end result to feelings of guilt, despair and pessimism among others. This research will, however, focus on highlighting the significance of adaptive strategies, and how they can be fostered in autistic children’s parents.
- Research Design
This research shall employ a qualitative research design as it is most appropriate for explaining phenomena such as the coping strategies being studied. As a result, this study will be concerned more on the causes of the stipulated phenomenon rather than getting a statistical representation from the sample.
The sample will consist of 25 parents who have autistic children. This sample will be selected mainly depending on the willingness of a parent to participate in the study.
- Data Collection
The main data collection techniques will include interviewing and observation. However, questionnaires will also be used to collect general data. The researcher opted for interviewing based on the knowledge that each parent has a different approach on how they cope with their autistic child. As a result, the researcher felt that it would be incorrect to limit the parents’ response to a particular set of questions.
Kluge, Silvia and Matthew Altiere. “Family Functioning and Coping Behaviors in Parents of Children with Autism.” J Child Fam Stud 18 (2009): 83-92. Print.
Lee, Gloria. “Parents of Children with High Functioning Autism: How Well Do They Cope and Adjust?” Journal of Development and Physical Disabilities 21 (2009): 93-114. Print.
Keok, Chua. “Parental experience of having a child diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder: An integrative literature review.”Singapore Nursing Journal 13.1 (2012): 8-18. Print.
Obaid, Majeda. “Parental Attitudes towards Autistic Child.” European Journal of Social Sciences 31.1 (2012): 103-114. Print.
Chang, Hsueh-Ling, Yun-Fang Tsai and Ching-Rong Lin. “Coping mechanisms of parents of children recently diagnosed with autism in Taiwan: a qualitative study.” Journal of Clinical Nursing 17 (2008): 2733–2740. Print.
King, G., L. Zwaigenbaum, S. King and D. Baxter. “A qualitative investigation of changes in the belief systems of families of children with autism or Down’s syndrome.” Child Care, Health & Development 3 (2006):353-368