Autism spectrum disorders in children--Treatment; Parents of children with disabilities; Self-care, Health; Children with disabilities--Care--United States; Medical personnel--caregiver relationships; Caregivers--Family relationships--United States


Objectives Using a content analysis, this study explored relevant qualitative research conducted on individuals with autism and their families and determined its contribution to occupational therapy intervention and evidence based practice. In addition, this study will seek to update and enrich data collected by Tomlin, Swinth, and Luthman (2011).

Method Sixty-two articles, of 70 gathered, published between 2011 and 2014 in a variety of scientific disciplines were collected and reviewed using a content analysis methodology to extract and summarize themes relevant to occupational therapy practice. Articles included either the perspective of the individual with autism or of their family members. Demographic data, trustworthiness, and theme prevalence were documented.

Results Both deductive and inductive processes (Elo & Kyngas, 2007; Kondracki, Wellman, & Amundson, 2002) were used to extract and organize themes. Three themes (service challenges, the lived experience of autism, and reframing family) were derived from Tomlin et al. (2011) and were used in an a priori method to fit themes from more recent articles. During the review process, new themes emerged and existing themes were reorganized according to prevalence in and relevance to each article. The lived experience became an overarching theme. Services challenges were split into societal stigma and service provider categories. Adaptation emerged as a new theme, split into the categories of resilience and reframing family.

Conclusion The themes in this body of research were explored via the experiences of the informants (from their point of view) and enhanced current AOTA literature. Most importantly, this study found that the use of qualitative data in tandem with quantitative data to inform evidence based practice may be beneficial for occupational therapists in the treatment of autism spectrum disorder for individual clients with autism and their families.

First Advisor

George Tomlin, PhD, OTR/L

Second Advisor

Yvonne Swinth, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Date of Completion

Spring 5-15-2015

Degree Type







Degree Name

Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT)

Date of Award

Spring 2015


Occupational Therapy


University of Puget Sound