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A narrative study of the experiences of immigrant parents in caring for their child with autism Wallace, Glenda


This study explored the experiences of immigrant parents caring for their child with autism. It has been suggested that families living with a child with autism are more likely to experience higher levels of stress compared to families who have typical children. Increased stress is also evident in immigrant families as they are exposed to new beliefs, values, and world views. Literature suggests that the experience of immigrant families and autism has not been explored. Hence, an exploratory investigation was conducted to investigate questions pertaining to these parents' experiences, and to generate questions for further research. A narrative paradigm was employed and focused on the experiences of three pairs of immigrant parents caring for a child with autism. The participants interviewed shared their experiences from their countries of origin; their current situations in Vancouver, B.C.; and their speculations and insights about the future. The narrative interviews were audio-taped, transcribed, and analyzed to develop a rich description of the participants' experiences. A systems - ecological approach was used to examine the topics in terms of relationships and subsequently applied to Christa Hoffman-Riem's conceptualization of "emotional normalization" (Hoffman-Riem, 1980). Each of the experiences described in this study was unique and reflected the experiences of the primary participants from their own perspectives. Parents were primarily concerned about their child with autism as compared to the stresses related to immigration. From these experiences, common issues emerged in areas such as behaviour; social support; communication; family functioning styles and family related concerns; general stress; self-care; religion and spirituality; integration; finances; child care; formal and informal support systems; parent advocacy; education and related services; independence and future concerns.

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