There have been numerous investigations seeking to quantify the experience of parents raising adolescents of autism, but remarkably few have looked at the total experience qualitatively, as reported by parents. The present study was conducted along with a larger study for adolescents with autism participating in the PEERS® social skills group intervention, which includes simultaneous parent sessions. This study analyzed comments made in the parent group, identifying the issues parents reported spontaneously through a qualitative analysis of 12 unstructured hour-long sessions including parents (n = 16) and graduate student clinicians. The purpose of this investigation was to explore the meaning and experiences of these parents to gain increased understanding about the needs of both parents and adolescents with autism. Themes resulting from the hermeneutic analysis of these videos focused on the adolescents and their "spark," a term coined by the parents denoting the unique strengths of their children, the values they share with the family, the impact of autism on the family, lack of self-awareness, being included and finding "one good friend." There was also a strong theme of the parents seeking support from one another. Finally, the parents spoke often of planning for/hoping for the future and what it may bring for their adolescent with autism. These themes can help describe the challenges/successes of parenting an adolescent with autism. This study provides some direction for further research to inform supports for parents whose children are approaching or are in the midst of adolescence with autism. Some other findings in our study were that parents are very concerned about acceptance of family values by their adolescent. Future studies can explore further what parents' needs are and how clinicians can help them.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Counseling Psychology and Special Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





autism, parents, adolescents with autism, parent child relationship, parent experiences, hermeneutics, successes/challenges