Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Mother's Reaction to Autism Diagnosis: A Qualitative Analysis Comparing Latino and White Parents

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Mother's Reaction to Autism Diagnosis: A Qualitative Analysis Comparing Latino and White Parents

Article excerpt

The latest report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2016) indicated that one in 68 or 1.5% of children in the United States has autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The rate of children affected by ASD has increased drastically (60%) in the past six years (CDC, 2009). The prevalence of ASD diagnosis is lower for racial and ethnic minority children compared to their White counterparts, however between 2002 and 2008 there was a greater upsurge in the rate of ASD diagnosis of among African American (91% increase) and Hispanic children (110% increase) compared to the 70% increase among White children (CDC, 2016) identifying a growing number of families from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds affected by ASD. Despite the increases, Latino children have been found to be diagnosed later and receive fewer services than White children (Magana, Lopez, Aguinaga, & Morton, 2013). The stark differences in age of diagnosis as well as service access and receipt between racial/ethnic minority children with ASD and their White counterparts indicates the need for a public health priority to promote early diagnosis, early access to care, and culturally informed support for parents of children with ASD.

Parents have been identified as the primary help-seeker for their child's diagnosis and treatment experiences. Parents are charged with navigating multiple services systems and policies, and managing their child's schedules and behavior. They are also responsible for negotiating with their own family members about child rearing throughout the child's life course (Blanche, Diaz, Barretto, & Cermak, 2015). The initial steps in their journey involve recognizing the signs and then seeking and receiving an ASD diagnosis for their children. When a child is diagnosed with ASD, parents react differently to experiencing a range of difficult feelings. The process of accepting or adjusting to a child's diagnosis includes emotional coping, meaning making, help-seeking, and other mechanisms that parents use to resolve their reaction to their child's diagnosis. The age of a child's diagnosis and family response is critical to determining how parents interact with their newly diagnosed children with ASD (Wachtel & Carter, 2008). Other studies indicate that parent reaction varies as a function of the child's symptom severity and parent's nationality and culture (Berneir, Mao, & Yen, 2010; Poslawsky, Naber, Daalen, & Engeland, 2014). The process of adjusting to the child's diagnosis is embedded in a cultural context and shared understandings of the illness, which can vary across cultures. However, little research has involved families from different cultural backgrounds (Lobar, 2014). As a result, there is a pressing need to explore reactions to child diagnoses among the growing number of racial and ethnic minority groups affected by ASD.

Parental Resolution

The process parents experience with coming to terms with their child's diagnosis has been referred to as "resolution" to the diagnosis (Marvin & Pianta, 1996). Specifically, resolution involves: 1) recognition of change in their emotional thoughts since the diagnosis, 2) assertion of moving forward in life, 3) decrease in seeking existential reason ("why me"/ "why my child") for their child's diagnosis, 4) balanced representation of their child's abilities, and 5) integrated statements regarding the benefits and drawbacks of their experience with their child's diagnosis (Pianta & Marvin, 1993). Marvin and Pianta (1996) examined the relationship of resolution to attachment among mothers of children with cerebral palsy and found that mothers who were classified as resolved had children who were considered securely attached, whereas mothers classified as unresolved had children who were found to have an insecure attachment style. In a more recent study, Oppenheim, Koren-Karie, Dolev, and Yirmiya (2012) found that children's attachment security was associated with maternal resolution and insightfulness. …

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