Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Special Education


Special Education and Habilitative Services

Major Professor

Flynn-Wilson, Linda

Second Advisor

Scott, Randall

Third Advisor

Cronin, Mary

Fourth Advisor

O'Hanlon, Ann


Parents are best able to identify their own support needs, and professionals can assist parents in receiving supports to assist with these needs. There has been an increase of children diagnosed with autism, which has resulted in a major concern for education professionals. Teachers, therapists, and medical personnel are better able to assist families of children with autism in obtaining supports because they are able to view the family and child objectively and are not emotionally tied to the situation. The focus of this study was to identify the forms of social support that mothers and fathers of children recently diagnosed with autism perceive as being important. Twenty couples (father-mother dyads) of children between the ages of three to five and diagnosed no more than a year and a half with autism participated in this study. Before the study began a social validation process with professionals and parents of children with autism was used to validate the usefulness of the 16 support items. Once the validation was complete, twenty families completed a Q-sort with the items, which allowed for a ranking from "most" to "least" important. Results indicated that both fathers and mothers ranked "information on how I can help my child" as the most important support and "help with transportation" as the least important support. Overall, fathers' preferred instrumental (goods, services, financial assistance, and information) types of supports, such as, "financial help for expenses." Mothers' preferred emotional (someone to talk to about problems, feelings, and attitudes) types of supports, such as, "contact with other parent(s) who experienced the same situation." T-tests, correlations, and a factor analysis were performed to analyze the data. Significant correlations were from on five support items. "Involvement with a church or strong religious beliefs", "special equipment to help meet my child's needs", "financial help for expenses", "participation in an organized parent support group", and "information on how I can help my child" were significant at the.05 level. From the findings, implications for professionals who work with families of children with autism and recommendations for future research are discussed.


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