Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


The purpose of this study was to attempt to understand how mothers experience their relationships with their children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This qualitative, exploratory study aimed to expand the body of knowledge on mothers who have children with an ASD and their unique experiences. The majority of previous research done in this area has been quantitative and has not considered the individual experiences of this population. Mothers of children diagnosed with an ASD were recruited from Massachusetts and New Hampshire for this study. Ten mothers with children between the ages of five and nineteen were interviewed face to face regarding their experiences of caring for a child with an ASD. Questions focused on topics such as: (a) Their own perceptions of their experiences, (b) the process of obtaining the diagnosis, (c) the most difficult and most rewarding aspects, and (d) the relationship between themselves and their children. Findings suggested that being a mother to a child with an ASD is both stressful and rewarding. Participants reported frustrations regarding their treatment by health care professionals and school systems. In addition, they spoke of the multitude of roles they had to play and relayed stories of loss in different areas of their lives as a result of mothering a child diagnosed with an ASD. Suggestions were made for further research on the impact of ASDs on families and how their unique needs can be met.


Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2008. iii, 57 p. Includes bibliographical references (p. 50-52)