Finding fathers' voices: Exploring life experiences of fathers of children with autistic spectrum disorders
Hunt-Jackson, Janine L.
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The purpose of this study was to explore how fathers view themselves as parents of children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) by drawing out stories about their involvement with their children. The study explored their experiences, how they found out about their child's impairment, and what they saw as being most helpful to them. While it is important to explore the medical reasons for impairment, leaving out what kind of effect the emotional, psychological and social aspects of impairment have on individuals with disabilities and their families presents an incomplete picture of disability. In order to expand the view of disability it is necessary to include research on the emotional, psychological and social aspects of impairment (Barnes & Mercer, 1997; Beaulaurier & Taylor, 2001). There is a paucity of research about fathers of children with disabilities (Dollahite, 2003; Quinn, 1999; Russell & Matson, 1998). With the sharp rise in the incidence and diagnosis of children with autistic spectrum disorders (VanBergeijk & Shtayermman, 2005) and the challenges presented by these children's behaviors, this author chose to conduct in-depth interviews with fathers of children with autistic spectrum disorders. This was an exploratory, qualitative study based on participatory action principles and employing snowball sampling. One-on-one, in-depth interviews with fathers (n = 14) of one and a half to three hours, using an open-ended interview guide were conducted. Analysis was completed by a line-by-line reading of the interview transcripts while listening to the tapes. Triangulation was obtained by having another researcher from a different discipline (engineering) follow the same procedure. Additionally, each father was sent the results to further check for verity. Themes surfacing from the study were "Diagnosis," "Acceptance," "Future Issues," "Behavior," "Education," "Challenges," "Feelings," and "Fixing the Problem". Recommendations based on this research point to a need for fathers to have increased information in male vernacular. The study also underscored the urgent need to include fathers in further research with an eye to fathers' needs.