Academic journal article School Community Journal

Strengths Classification of Social Relationships among Cybermothers Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Strengths Classification of Social Relationships among Cybermothers Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Article excerpt

Abstract

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and their families are different. Parents often surf the Internet in search of supportive solutions to the unique challenges they face. One source of insight for parents raising children with ASD comes from blog writers and the parents who surf the net to read their blogs, or cyberparents. The study here intends to add insight into how cybermothers raising children with ASD experience their social networks. Such perceptions may potentially help educators foster positive partnerships with similar parents. The researchers undertook this phenomenological study with the assumption that cybermothers who blog expressed their authentic voices and would best represent their lived experiences. Eighteen months of data collected from 24 blogs was coded within a strengths framework that classified relationships into inhibiting and assisting categories and sorted it by themes that emerged within each strength category. Inhibiting relationship themes included role strain and isolation. Assisting themes were examined within the context of supportive relationships.

Key Words: mothers, autism spectrum disorders, ASD, strengths, social, relationships, networks, networking, blogging, online, supports, cyberparents, parents, families, blogs, Internet, roles, isolation, special needs, education, children with disabilities, disability, teachers

Introduction

Raising a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can have a tremendous impact on parents. The purpose of the present study is to develop an understanding of how cybermothers who blog, a group of mothers who blogged about their experiences raising children with ASD, perceived their social networks. This insight could explain, in part, their influence in shaping practices and meanings among other parents who surf the Internet seeking alternative information about children with ASD. Further, we assumed that such an understanding would be useful to educators who work with similar families because it might provide insight that could help foster supportive home-school partnerships.

Parenting children with ASD requires adapting to a variety of challenging behaviors and communication patterns. Children with ASD typically display the following characteristics: impaired social interaction, impaired communication, repetitive or stereotyped behavior, abnormal sensory perception, and impaired cognition (Clarke & van Amerom, 2007). Typically, three recognized diagnoses constitute ASD: Autism, Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (CDC, 2006). Generally, children with Asperger Syndrome have a much higher level of intellectual functioning than those in the other two categories, but their social skills are not commensurate with their academic abilities and their chronological age.

Perhaps the increase in the diagnosis of ASDs over the last decade can explain in part the increase in public attention to these disorders. ASDs are now ranked second, behind intellectual disabilities, as the most common childhood developmental disorders (CDC, 2006). In 2006, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that 1 in 150 (0.6%) children, or 46.5 million youth between birth and college, in the United States have an ASD (CDC, 2006). It logically follows that this increase in incidents accompanies an increase in the cost of care. The potential educational costs associated with educating children with ASDs are estimated at roughly $15,000 a year while additional therapies may cost families on average $22,000 annually thus bringing the potential cost of care to an estimated $660,000 over the first 18 years (Chasson, Harris, & Neely, 2007). It is plausible that families, school districts, and universities in the United States combined may annually pay around $1.7 trillion to care for youth with ASD.

Cyberparents

Children with ASD and their families are often misunderstood (Cole, 2007). …

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