Date of Conferral





Human Services


Mary Bold


The perspective of the caregiver is vital to understanding the experiences of raising a child with autism, including the challenges faced in accessing services. The purpose of this qualitative, transcendental phenomenological study was to examine the lived experiences of primary caregivers raising a school-age child with autism and to bring about an understanding of the challenges faced in accessing services. Resiliency theory provided the conceptual framework for the study. Semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with 11 participants raising a child with autism in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Data were analyzed using Moustakas's descriptive approach. Results yielded 5 themes: overall experience, challenges, relationships, access to services, and stressors. Findings revealed effective ways to support caregivers through programs and services and highlighted the importance of supportive relationships and family connections. Implications for social change include opening conversations regarding the unique perspectives and needs of primary caregivers of children with autism, supporting awareness of the stressors associated in daily caregiving, and engaging in broader discussions regarding the importance of establishing supportive relationships among physicians, mental health providers, specialists, social workers and care managers in order to support the advocacy efforts of caregivers.