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Learning Center Experience
By Yvonne Bustamante, MS, FDC, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Adjunct Faculty
parents, hearing that their child has autism or an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
can be a time of sadness, grief, and, in some instances, relief. Caregivers are
likely to experience a gamut of emotions based on fear, anxiety, and lost
dreams for the future. At the same time, parents or caregivers may feel relief
in the knowledge that they are not “bad parents,” that their children’s
behavior is not a reflection of poor parenting, but instead a manifestation of
a developmental disability.1, 2
The Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 110 children on
average are diagnosed with ASD in the United States. While the diagnosis of ASD
is on the rise, the CDC is not able to determine if this due to a broader
definition of ASD, better diagnostic tools, or an actual rise in the prevalence
of ASD. Instead, the CDC believes it is a combination of factors.3
ASDs are a
broad spectrum of symptoms that are most commonly diagnosed within the first
three years of life. The symptoms prevent the child from following normal
developmental patterns and include deficits in social skills, verbal and
nonverbal communication, along with repetitive behaviors and/or obsessive
coupled with an autism diagnosis can throw parents and caregivers into a
tailspin of uncertainty, confusion, and disbelief. Parents and families may
already be stressed due to their child’s atypical and challenging behaviors,
adding a diagnosis of autism can make the situation more daunting. Although
there are a variety of pamphlets and educational brochures about autism,
parents may remain uncertain about how to cope.
children with ASD are likely to experience any number of negative emotions
related to their child’s behaviors and subsequent diagnosis. Research has shown
that some of the major negative impact on family members and subsystems
negative emotions and psychological distress are different for each family
member. In addition, each family member has different root causes for their
psychological distress. Based on recent research, the below list offers some of
the main causes of distress for family members living with a loved one
diagnosed with ASD:9-14
Strategies and Hope
the stressors associated with diagnosis of ASD, studies have shown that
families also report positive outcomes. Moreover, positive coping strategies
can significantly improve the family and individual family members’ quality of
life. Families have reported the positive effects of renewed family strength, resiliency,
and cohesiveness, along with personal maturation and a discovery of new life
directions. Furthermore, siblings often fare remarkably well, reporting
maturity beyond years, deepened empathy, and heightened self-esteem and
self-efficacy. Researchers have found that the following coping strategies
helped promote these positive outcomes in families and family members:15-22
closing, families and loved ones need to recognize the need for balance,
flexibility, and acceptance of life’s gifts and challenges. Most importantly,
be kind to each other and your individual selves, accept what you cannot
change, and act upon what can be changed.
References1. J.S. Bloch, and J.D. Weinstein, “Families of Young Children With Autism,” Social Work in Mental Health, 8 no. 1 (2010): 23. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. 2. H. Meadan, J.W. Halle, and A.T. Ebata, “Families With Children Who Have Autism Spectrum Disorders: Stress and Support,” Exceptional Children 77 no. 1 (2010): 7. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Autism spectrum disorders. Retrieved February 2011 fromhttp://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html.4. National Institute of Mental Health, Autism spectrum disorders (pervasive developmenta disorders). Retrieved February 2011 from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/autism/complete-index.shtml.5. J.S. Bloch.6. S.J. Ferraioli and S. L. Harris, “The Impact of Autism on Siblings. Social Work in Mental Health, 8(1), 41. Retrieved from EBSCOhos.7. H. Meadan.8. C.G. Pottie and K.M. Ingram, “Daily Stress, Coping, and Well-Being in Parents of Children With Autism: A Multilevel Modeling Approach,” Journal of Family Psychology, 22 no. 6 (2008): 855-864. doi:10.1037/a0013604.
Yvonne Bustamante, MS, FDC
Bustamante is currently an adjunct professor for the College of Public Service at Kaplan University and several other universities, and
teaches classes ranging from professional development, program evaluation, human services, and general psychology to counseling theory, skills, and techniques. She has
worked in the field of developmental disabilities for the past 16 years as a
foster parent, coordinator, crisis case manager, intervention specialist for
at-risk families, counselor, master level psychologist, and applied behavioral
Bustamante earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Keuka College and a
Master of Science in Counseling and Applied Behavior Analysis from Nova
Southeastern University. In addition, she holds a Family Development
Credential from Cornell University Cooperative Extension and is currently in a
doctorate program working towards a PhD in psychology. Her research interests
are in technology addictions, online learning modalities, and generational
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