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Date of Award

7-25-2003

Degree Type

Dissertation (On-Campus Access Only)

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Committee Chair

Michel Hersen

Second Advisor

Paula Truax

Abstract

This dissertation explores the effects of Autistic Disorder on siblings. Diagnostic criteria and etiological theories of Autistic Disorder are presented and an overview of the impact this chronic disorder has on families is offered. Specific effects of an autistic child's special needs on a family during various phases of the life cycle are examined. Parental stressors, including the negative effects of the autistic child's behaviors, experiences with professionals and societal reaction, are discussed. Parental coping methods employed to decrease such negative effects of Autistic Disorder are reviewed. An in-depth exploration of the effects of a child with a disability, more specifically a child with autism, on a normally developing sibling is completed. A clinical case was presented to illustrate the impact of an autistic child on a family system, and in particular a female sibling. Parent and sibling interviews were completed to obtain family history and concerns about living with an autistic child. The Sibling Inventory of Behavior and Harder's Personal Feelings Questionnaire - 2 were administered to assess parental concerns of the sibling's behaviors and family feelings of guilt and shame. Further assessment of sibling behaviors and feelings was achieved through application of sibling exercises. Results indicate that parents and siblings report experiencing different feelings and behaviors. Parental scores are higher for positive sibling behaviors and feelings in contrast to the sibling report of negative behaviors and feelings. Maternal scores validate feelings of guilt; paternal scores reflect feelings of shame; and sibling scores validate both guilt and shame. Sibling feelings of embarrassment, guilt, anger, and sadness are evidenced in the results. Treatment recommendations, incorporating family-based and community-based interventions, are presented.

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