Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MSc)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Dr. Paula Fletcher

Advisor Role

Thesis advisor

Second Advisor

Dr. Margaret Schneider

Advisor Role

Thesis advisor


The purpose of this research was to explore the experiences of family members living with a child with ASD. The specific research questions that were addressed included: 1. How is a family member affected by having a child with ASD in the family unit; and 2. How does living with a child with ASD affect family functioning? The theoretical orientation of phenomenology was used to guide this research and to allow the “voice” of family members of children with ASD to be heard. The purpose of phenomenology is to distill individuals’ experiences with a phenomenon down to an “essence” of the experience by looking for common themes in the meanings participants give to their lived experiences with the phenomenon being studied (Creswell, 2013). Face sheets, semi-structured interviews, field notes, and member checks were used to collect data from 9 family members living with children with ASD. Analysis of the data revealed six major themes regarding the lived experiences of family members of children with ASD. The themes that related to the family unit as a whole were: (1) “It is a big change”; (2) “It isn’t in the moment, it is prepare for the moment”; (3) “The whole education end of things…”; and (4) “I am just not feeling the best these days…”: ASD takes its toll. The themes associated with the unique experiences of family members were: (5) The sibling experience, and (6) The parent experience. It is undeniable that there are both positives and negatives associated with living with and caring for children with ASD. By having participants reflect on their experiences of living with children with ASD as well as their perceptions of their family members’ experiences, this study was able to provide an in-depth and holistic picture of the effects living with children with ASD have on the family as an interconnected unit.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season