Embracing autism in Canadian rural communities

Authors

  • Lindsey Hoogsteen RN, MN,

    registered nurse
    1. Faculty of Nursing, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
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  • Roberta L. Woodgate RN, MN, PhD

    professor
    1. Faculty of Nursing, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
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    • Dr. Woodgate has a Manitoba Research Chair awarded by the Manitoba Health Research Council.

  • Lindsey Hoogsteen (RN, MN) is a registered nurse currently working at an acute care hospital specializing in child care in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
  • Dr Roberta L. Woodgate (RN, MN, PhD) is a professor in Child Health and Illness at the Faculty of Nursing, University of Manitoba.

Correspondence: Ms Lindsey Hoogsteen, Faculty of Nursing, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3T 2N2. Email: umhoogsl@cc.umanitoba.ca

Abstract

Objective

The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experience of Canadian parents living in rural areas who were parenting a child with autism.

Design

A phenomenological design described by van Manen was applied to guide this study.

Setting

This study took place in rural communities of Western Canada.

Participants

Purposive sampling was used to recruit 26 families parenting a child with autism in rural communities. Participants ranged in age from 26 to 50 years old and lived an average of 197 kilometres away from an urban city.

Interventions

Parents of children with autism took part in audio-taped, in-depth interviews. A total of 26 open-ended interviews were completed over four months with an average of 83 minutes per interview.

Main Outcome Measures

All interviews and field notes were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using van Manen's selective highlighting approach.

Results

When describing the characteristics of living rurally while parenting a child with autism, parents reported that the rural community had (i) less of everything, (ii) safety and familiarity, and (iii) a family of support. Parents believed that although there were disadvantages to living in a rural community, parents felt isolated in terms of services but not in terms of the support received by the community.

Conclusion

The results of this study add to our knowledge of parenting experiences with attention to the rural experience and furthermore, recommendations for nurses and health care professionals were provided.

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