The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

Social Work: M.S.W


Social Work


School of Health and Human Services

First Advisor

Gary Whitford

Second Advisor

Linda Gensheimer

Third Advisor

Mary Beth Knoll

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

Aspergers, Family System, Autism, Special Needs, Services


The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of Asperger's Syndrome on the family. The study employed a qualitative research approach with a life story design. A purposeful sample of six families with children diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome/Autism (AS) was used. In most cases, both parental caregivers of the . identified biological or adopted children, consisting of five boys and one girl, were interviewed. The interview consisted of a free flowing conversation addressing the impact that Asperger's Syndrome has had on the family. The Care Giver Strain Tool was informally used as a guide to ensure all relevant subject areas of care giving were addressed.

Seven themes emerged. Why Is Junior So Odd focuses on the initial • identifications that parents made when they realized that their child was developing differently from his/her peers. What Kind of Help Should I Access and Where Do I Find It found that as each family moved into the preschool years, they identified an increased need to seek out help and support. This Is Not What I Expected portrays how the families defined the impact that the AS child was playing on their family life script. Relationships are Challenging illustrates the complexities of relationships with extended family, friends, and the community. Problems with Peers describes the experiences that occur between the child and his/her peer group and how these issues affect the family system. The School Experience identifies the impact school plays on the family's functioning and stress levels. It Is What It Is: Living with Atypical Behaviors explains the adjustments that are made by the family and the efforts towards homeostasis that occur.

The results of the interviews suggest that these families share many of the same issues including stress, frustration, need for routine, challenges with the school, . concerns about peer issues and bullying, relationship disputes, and concerns about the future. Implications for practice include education, community awareness, additional funding opportunities, and extensive and ongoing support services to families.

Implications for future research strategies include earlier identification, intervention, and training opportunities for all helping professionals and families.


To my husband, who has put up with my emotional and physical absence from our family for the last 2 years. His support has enabled me to see this process through.

To my almost adult daughter, Melyssa, of whom I am very proud. To my son, Matthew, for teaching me about the beauty of the human spirit. To my daughter, Meaghyn, who has understood that when Mommy is studying, lappy time must wait.

I want to share with you one of my favorite mother-son conversations. One day, we were chatting and I said to my son, "Matthew, do you know how many feet are in a yard?"

He thought about the question for a moment and answered, "Well, it depends on how big the yard is...... "

To my professors, for their support and encouragement. To my work colleagues, for supporting me throughout this endeavor, you are a great group of people.

To my MSW cohort, my life is so much richer by knowing each of you. To God, I often wonder why I have been handed so many challenges throughout my life. I may not understand why, but I have faith that the reason is good. With Gods continued guidance and support (and a little Prozac), if l can leave this world a better place for the life of at least one child, I have been a success.

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Social Work Commons