Experiences of Taiwanese Parents of Children with Autism – Disabilities

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Chen, Kai Pin
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Mount Saint Vincent University
There has been a growing awareness and discourse on the nature, causes, and interventions of autism. However, few studies have been undertaken to discuss the socio-cultural factor which accounts for the varied perspectives in interpreting and characterizing this disability. This qualitative research study is designed to understand the perspectives, experiences, and practices of parents raising a child with autism in Taiwan. The meaning of the experiences which parents and the child live are said to be constructed under the dominant socio-cultural views of autism and disability. Thus, the present study attempts to gain insights into the phenomenon in which parents and the child negotiate their experiences within their socially constructed reality. Indepth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 parents of school-aged children with autism in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan. Participants were recruited using snowball sampling to build trust with the researcher and the study, and to secure participants’ privacy and confidentiality. The parents’ demographic information and the interview data were collected and analyzed. A constant comparative method based on the grounded theory approach was adopted to analyze the interview transcripts. Analysis of the interview data revealed three themes: the meanings of autism, family as the base of support, and the child developing into a relatively autonomous person. Results indicate that the Taiwanese parents drew on the knowledge and experience acquired from both medical and educational sources to treat, to educate, and to place their child with autism in anticipating the child would develop relative independence when reaching adulthood, particularly, in response to the expectations of their extended family and the society. They also utilized social supports to improve the well-being and situations of their families in confronting conventional conceptions of disability, especially when regarding the moral value associated with having a child with a disability. Two central themes emerged from the findings: a) a lack of social awareness of autism, and b) a lack of support resources for the placement of adults with disabilities. These themes were important aspects of the lived experiences of families of children with autism in Taiwan.
Autism, disability. Taiwan,