Parenting an autistic child in Kuwait: Kuwaiti mothers' voice and experiences with children labeled autistic

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Cultural Foundations of Education


Douglas Biklen


Parenting, Kuwait, Mothers, Autism, Parents, Education, Kuwaiti, Cope, Hope

Subject Categories

Family, Life Course, and Society | Mental Disorders | Other International and Area Studies | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Special Education and Teaching


The purpose of this descriptive, qualitative study is to examine Kuwaiti parents' experiences with autism, with the goal of capturing the essence of the parents' life with individuals with autism. The research involved interviews with 11 mothers who have children diagnosed with autism.

Comparisons to "normality" and relying only on psychological/medical narratives of autism make the experience of having a child with autism difficult and stressful. As a result, parents go through stages of realization, reaction, and adjustment; then they organize their efforts and resources to help their children. However, parents exhibit remarkable flexibility in the ability to adapt their lifestyles to meet their children's needs. Themes that emerged from the participants' experiences were interrelated, and can be grouped into three stages.

The first stage revolves around prediagnosis and reaction, including stress, and is described by the theme Understanding Autism. The second stage encompasses autism from the mothers' perspective, incorporating intervention, resorting to Allah, coping strategies, mothers' social relationships, and mothers' positive and negative reactions, and is described by the theme Coping and Adaptation. The third stage represents the educational services provided for the individual with autism and is described by the theme Schooling. It encompasses the journey to find schooling, school services, teachers' experiences and outcomes, integration, government services and support, and concerns for the future.

The findings of the study were compared to previous research, including psychological/clinical literature, and autobiographies of people with autism and their families. Implications and recommendations, limitations, and future research are discussed as well.


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