Facing Challenges on Two Fronts: Exploring the Process of Resilience for Military Families Raising a Child with Autism Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Freuler, Ashley
    • Affiliation: School of Medicine, Department of Allied Health Sciences, Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
  • Managing daily life in the presence of their child's pervasive symptoms and coping with stressors unique to military culture characterize the battle on two fronts that face military families raising children with autism spectrum disorder (autism). Resilience models describe the process of adaptation to stressful circumstances and have been used to describe family stress and coping. However, little is known about the mechanisms that facilitate resilience for military families raising a child with autism or the impact that this process has on well being for this particular population. Further, the concept of occupation is overlooked in the literature as a potential mechanism in the resilience process despite the identified link between participation in everyday routines and well being. Family occupations consist of shared daily activities that provide structure and meaning within families. A qualitative methodology was used consisting of a sequence of three in-depth semi-structured interviews and an iterative process of thematic analysis. The interviews included open-ended questions exploring resilience, parent experiences of raising a child with autism, and military lifestyle. Participants included 18 active duty military spouses who have a child with autism, ages 4 to 12 years old whose spouse was serving in an active duty capacity in the United States military. Families represented four branches of the Uniformed Services, including: Army (n=13), Marine (n=2), Navy (n=2), and Air Force (n=1). Families included both Officer (n=13) and Enlisted (n=5) personnel, and were stationed at instillations across the country, representing bases in nine different states and in the District of Columbia. Six broad categories of themes emerged from the data, which I will refer to as `theme categories'. Six theme categories emerged, including Barriers and Stressors, Supports and Resources, Strategies, Time and Place, Family Culture, and Moments of Resilience. These theme categories describe both the components and the mechanisms that comprise the resilience process for these families. A model of resilience specific to military families with a child with autism is proposed to explain the transactional and complex nature of this process.
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  • In Copyright
  • Baranek, Grace
  • Master of Science
Graduation year
  • 2013

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