Mahurin Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects


School of Nursing

Document Type



Being a parent of a child with autism and/or a developmental disorder may cause profound effects on the parents' relationships with others (Trepagnier, 1999). This qualitative study describes how a diagnosis of autism and/or a developmental disorder for a child affects the parent's relationships with others. The goal is to help nurses determine appropriate interventions for these clients. Following Human Subjects Review Board approval, a researcher-developed questionnaire was completed by a convenience sample of six parents known to the researcher and known to have a child with autism and/or a developmental disorder. The findings of the study indicate that all of the parents first seemed to notice a speech development problem with their child. Following an initial visit with the child's pediatrician, each set of parents was encouraged to take their child for a hearing consultation. Other evaluations by a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, and a physical therapist were conducted. Along with the doctor's advice, the Internet seemed to be the most valuable source for information regarding the condition and treatments. All of the mothers tended to be more open about the effects that the pervasive developmental disorder diagnosis has on the relationships around them. Four out of six parents admitted that the diagnosis has affected other relationships. An overall sense of powerlessness was reported among each of the participants. Knowledge of parents' perceptions is essential as nurses meet the needs of families whose child has been diagnosed with autism and/or a developmental disorder.

Advisor(s) or Committee Chair

Mrs. Rhonda Helm


Social and Behavioral Sciences