An Exploration of Parental Reactions to Autism Diagnosis: The Influences and Evolution of Parents’ Experience


Jamie Brenner

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Capstone Project

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Peter Buirski

Second Advisor

Laura Meyer

Third Advisor

Eric Moody


Parents have a variety of emotional reactions to a child being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This study explores the factors that influence these varying reactions and the process of coping post-diagnosis. A phenomenological qualitative study was conducted to capture parents’ experience of the ASD diagnostic process. Factors that influenced parental reactions included level of initial concern about development, initial conceptualization of ASD, and involvement in the assessment process. Many themes emerged that coincided with parents coping being similar to theories of grief (denial/disbelief, anger, relief etc.). Implications for assessment and treatment of ASD are discussed.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


57 pages

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