Date of Conferral







Susana Verdinelli


Parents of a child diagnosed with autism have a high risk for physical and emotional stress with mental health difficulties. Little research exists regarding fathers with an autistic child, and less information exists on African American fathers who struggle with coping and finding appropriate interventions and resources for raising an autistic child. The purpose of this interpretative, phenomenological study was to analyze the lived experiences of 12 African American fathers raising their child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. This study's theoretical lens was Bowen's family systems theory. The data from this study consisted of 12 interviews with African American fathers using an open-ended and semistructured format. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis. The fathers' descriptions of their lived experiences yielded 4 themes: father's interaction with the child, emotional reactions, discipline of the child, and awareness support of autism spectrum disorder. African American fathers indicated positive results caring for their child with autism and desired effective interventions to increase the child's continued success for the future. Findings supported the father's presence as significant as the mothers when caring for a child diagnosed with autism. Implications for positive social change include professionals understanding the lived experiences of the African American father, such as increased community supports, resources, advocates, education, and awareness in the African American community.