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Research - Children with Autism

Three Misericordia University OT graduate research studies recently investigated the lived experiences of parents of children who have autism.  The first study was entitled: "Mothers of Children with Autism: A Contextual Model of Coping and Acceptance."  Investigators in this study were members of the MU OT Class of 2010, and were LeeAnn Bower, MS, OTR/L; Daniel Holbrook, MS, OTR/L; Rae Beth Mattioli, MS, OTR/L; Denise Knapp, MS, OTR/L; and Candace Mack, MS, OTR/L.

In this study interviews with mothers of children who have autism resulted in the evolution of a grounded theory, the Contextual Model of Coping and Acceptance of Mothers of Children with ASD (CMCA) This model shows how the use of adaptive strategies and support systems helps mothers move towards acceptance and promotes family function.

A second study was based upon the aforementioned CMCA. The second study was:  "Authenticating an Assessment for Mothers of Children with Autism: The AMCA."  The graduate student investigators in this study were Elizabeth B. Lewis, William J. Rider, and Robin A. Ujcic-Snyder - all members of the MU OT Class of 2011.  This investigation utilized the CMCA as a theory base for the design and validation of an assessment of life satisfaction and occupational performance for mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder. This resulted in the development of  the Assessment for Mothers of Children with Autism (AMCA).  A copy of the AMCA Instrument is available for downloading here.  AMCA Instrument (pdf).   Therapists working with children with ASD are invited to utilize this assessment to become more aware of situational challenges faced by the mothers.

The third investigation was "Lived Experiences of Fathers who have Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder."  This investigation was conducted by Lata Ananthan, Sarah Bowlby Darling, Breia Szagola, and Jennifer Youtsey Clarkson from the MU OT Class of 2011.  This research involved a qualitative descriptive study to determine the lived experiences of fathers of children with autism. This study sought to determine how having a child with autism affects a father’s quality of life and occupational balance. Researchers analyzed what additional supports the fathers might need to help improve their quality of life and occupational balance. Results indicated that despite reports of increased stress, anxiety, self-limiting professional growth, and troubled relationships; fathers were satisfied with their occupational balance and quality of life. This level of satisfaction was not seen in prior research. It was found that fathers would benefit from additional supports including that of therapists, family, friends, teachers, and other health care professionals.

The student investigators who conducted these studies were guided by Dr. Grace Fisher, Chair and Associate Professor of the Misericordia Occupational Therapy Program. Please send questions about these studies or feedback on the AMCA instrument to