Background Much is known about the hardships associated with parenting a child with a disability, but few studies have examined the broader contributions of the child to family life or society.
Methods The study involved qualitative analysis of interviews with 16 families of children with autism spectrum disorder or Down syndrome at critical transition periods (entry to elementary or high school), targeting their perceptions of benefits.
Results Parents discussed a wide range of benefits beyond the personal level, including parental, family and societal benefits. Exploratory group comparisons indicated that parents of high school-aged children were more likely to mention family-level and societal benefits.
Conclusions The findings suggest that raising a child with a disability can trigger role-related decisions that lead to a series of resiliency-related processes and cascading benefits. The findings inform practitioners about the nature of potential positive experiences that can be shared with families starting out on their journey, allowing parents to recognize the positive dimensions of raising a child with a disability in addition to the hardships.