The Lived Experience of Parenting a Preschool Age, Moderately Retarded Autistic Child
Autistic Spectrum Disorder, commonly referred to as autism, is a developmental neurobehavioral disorder characterized by three core defining features: impairment of socialization, impairment of communication, and restricted repetitive patterns of behavior. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2007) reported that the prevalence of autism is a continuing urgent public health concern affecting an approximate average of one child in every 150. It is crucial to understand the parenting of autistic children in order to improve behavioral and medical problems of autistic children. The phenomenological method developed by Giorgi was employed in this study. Participants in the study included 13 mothers and 3 fathers of 15 autistic children with moderate mental retardation who were between the ages of three to five. The participants were interviewed via a focused interview guide. Four themes of parenting an autistic child emerged: 1.) "Total life change," which referred to physical relocation of the living environment, cessation of professional job activity, changing oneself to adapt to the child's needs, becoming depressed or anxious, gaining community involvement, and changing of parents' priorities; 2.) "Limited personal time," which described the parent's daily struggles and frustration due to the inability to communicate with the autistic child, the need for constant supervision, and the presence of difficult behavioral problems; 3.) "Concurrent growth," which referred to the learning process for both the parents and the autistic child; and 4.) "Hope," which referred to joy, hope, and optimism for the child's future. The results of the study led to ten recommendations for improving nursing practice, including educating the public about autism, advocacy for the provision of respite care for parents of autistic children, advocating for parents' support groups, developing summer camps for autistic children, providing psychological and emotional support to parents, advocating for more therapists in special education schools for autistic children, advocating individual school programs, providing education materials on autism to parents and siblings of autistic children, and advocating for case workers for families with challenging autistic children.
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