The Lived Experience of Parenting a Child With Autism in a Rural Area: Making the Invisible, Visible
Lindsey Hoogsteen, Roberta L. Woodgate
This qualitative study explored the lived experiences of parents parenting a child with autism while living in a rural area. The philosophy of hermeneutic phenomenology was used to guide this inquiry, and interviews of 26 families served as primary data. Thematic statements were isolated using van Manen's (1990) selective highlighting approach. "Making the invisible, visible" emerged as the essence of the parents' experience. Parents shared that although autism was an invisible disability, they in fact made it visible in their constant battles to ensure their child received the best quality of life. The major themes of this essence included a) he's not the Rain Man, b) society's lack of knowledge and understanding, and c) doing it on our own. Findings from this study may be used to guide program development that is concerned with improving the quality of life of families of children with autism living in rural areas.