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AJSLP-13-0017ijalba_Supp1.pdf (353.95 kB)

Hispanic Immigrant Mothers of Young Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders (Ijalba, 2016)

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journal contribution
posted on 2016-05-01, 00:00 authored by Elizabeth Ijalba
Purpose This study aimed to understand the experiences of raising a child with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in a group of Hispanic immigrant mothers. The following 3 aspects were explored: (a) the families' social environments, (b) cultural beliefs on development and autism, and (c) perceptions of bilingualism influencing language choices. Method In-depth 3-part phenomenological interviews and thematic analyses were conducted with 22 Hispanic immigrant mothers of preschool children with ASD.
Results A total of 3 thematic categories emerged: stigmatization and social isolation, preconceptions about developmental milestones and autism, and mothers' reluctance to speak Spanish with their children. A lack of awareness about autism influenced social isolation, and autism was viewed as temporary and associated with fear or sadness. The mothers believed that exposure to 2 languages would increase their children's language difficulties.
Conclusions Hispanic immigrant mothers raising children with autism were often challenged by immigration status, economic hardship, and advice against using Spanish with their children. Professional training and parent education are needed to facilitate early identification of ASD. Immigrant families should be encouraged to communicate in the home language with their children. Information about ASD should be disseminated through community outreach, home–school connections, and pediatricians, who remain pivotal in informing Hispanic immigrant families.


This research was supported in part by a grant from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's Projects on Multicultural Activities. Special thanks to the mothers for sharing their experiences and to colleagues for their feedback on earlier drafts of this article.