Date of Conferral

2015

Degree

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

School

Education

Advisor

Roberta Agar-Jacobsen

Abstract

Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often exhibit high parental stress which may be caused by parent-child behaviors, child behaviors, and parent distress. Awareness and understanding of ASD is critical for parents and educators to connect students with support services and resources. The purpose of this bounded, descriptive case study was to identify perceived parental stressors and to determine the primary stressors of parents with low socioeconomic status who are raising a child with ASD in a rural area. The foundation of family systems theory framed this study. Ten parents raising a child with ASD were purposefully selected and volunteered to participate in this study. The quantitative data were collected using the Parental Stress Index-Short Form, a 36-item Likert scale with items related to parent-child dysfunctional relationships, parenting distress, and child behavior. Descriptive analysis determined which domain and items were most stressful and were the basis for developing 6 semistructured interview questions. Interview data were open-coded and analyzed thematically to identify the greatest stressors to parents. Based on these findings, it is recommended that school personnel coordinate an autism support group to include educators, parents of children with ASD, and professional service providers to share formal and informal supports within the school district and the community. These endeavors may contribute to positive social change by providing parents and educators access to resources and therapeutic and social supports, thus allowing students with ASD to receive appropriate and timely support and to reduce parental stress.