Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts




Sara E. Grineski


This study examines how parents understand autism, their child's behavior and development. Parents can understand their child's behavior and development through a medical model perspective, which sees the childâ??s autism as a series of deficits and deviations. However, a growing number of parents understand their child's behavior and development through a neurodiversity perspective, where a child is seen as having differences in behavior, instead of deficits. Parents' understandings of autism can influence how they see their child's behavior and development and be a driver for seeking diagnosis. In-depth interviews were conducted with parents of children with autism to probe for parents' experiences before and up to the diagnosis of autism. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed for emergent themes. The central theme for this Thesis was "meaning of autism" and additional subthemes emerged in relation to the meaning of autism for parents. Subthemes that emerged included how parents talked about autism, factors that influenced how parents understood autism, and how parents accepted the diagnosis of autism. Parents' understanding of autism changed based on their knowledge of autism. As parents learned more and interacted more with other parents and children with autism, the meaning of autism changed for them. While some parents understanding of autism can lean more towards one model or the other, many parents used a combination of medical model and neurodiversity understandings finding each useful in different situations.




Received from ProQuest

File Size

73 pages

File Format


Rights Holder

Kylara Leyva