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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The experience of mothers and clinicians in the assessment of autism spectrum disorder Bowers, Anna


Being told that their child meets criteria for a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is life-changing news for parents. Prior to the diagnosis, they wait and worry and are faced with uncertainty about their child. After receiving the diagnosis, parents must adjust to the loss of “normalcy” and the demands of arranging services. In Canada, psychologists are regularly involved in conducting assessments and communicating the diagnosis of ASD to parents. Despite research examining parents’ experience with the diagnostic process, few studies have additionally considered clinicians’ perspectives and practices in conducting ASD assessments. In the present study, the experiences of mothers and clinicians before, during, and after a diagnosis of ASD were examined. The aim was to better understand how parents present when coming to an assessment for ASD, their reaction to the diagnosis, and the support they and their child received. This had the potential to provide insight into effective ways to meet the needs of parents as they process and attempt to move forward with their child’s diagnosis of ASD. In the present study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with mothers and clinicians from lower mainland British Columbia. Data was categorized and analyzed using an inductive approach to thematic analysis. From the mother interviews, twelve themes emerged to depict experiences across the phases of assessment, while fourteen themes were revealed through clinician interviews. Findings revealed that mothers suspected ASD before the assessment began, clinicians made attempts to be clear and compassionate, and that information regarding resources was sufficient yet overwhelming for parents. In general, mothers were satisfied with the clinician and assessment approach yet discontent with the understanding and support received from outside sources.

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