Internet use among parents of children with autism spectrum disorders

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Parents of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are uniquely stressed by the difficult behaviors of their children which often result in isolation, depression and financial burden. The causes of ASD are not well-understood but are believed to result from a complex interplay between genetic and environmental factors. There is no standard treatment protocol for ASD. Since early intervention is associated with more favorable outcomes for the child, many parents search the Internet hoping to find effective therapies and treatments. This study employed Naturalistic Inquiry methodology, as described by Lincoln and Guba (1985), to explore how parents of children with ASD use the Internet, what kinds of information the parents were seeking and how they located, evaluated and chose to use ASD-related information. Twelve parents of children with ASD were interviewed for the study. Data consisted of bio-demographic information and transcribed interviews. Data was unitized and analyzed inductively; coded descriptively, topically and analytically (Morse & Richards, 2002) in a recursive manner using the constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Rigor and data trustworthiness were enhanced by using data management and analysis strategies to ensure credibility, fittingness and auditability (Lincoln and Guba, 1985; Beck, 1993). Findings revealed that parents searched with intensity and urgency for information about causes, treatments, how to interpret symptoms of ASD and to confirm their child’s diagnosis. They searched in response to unsatisfactory experiences with the healthcare and educational systems. Parents reported that they would like more information online about strategies to handle difficult behaviors, respite care, encouragement for daily living and how to access direct services for their children.\r\n\r\n

qualitative, parents, NVivo7, naturalistic inquiry, Internet, constructivism, autism