The lived experience of Lao families having a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Author: Viengsam Indavong

Indavong, Viengsam, 2018 The lived experience of Lao families having a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Flinders University, College of Nursing and Health Sciences

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The purpose of this current study was to explore parents’ experiences of raising a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR). The experiences of 26 Lao parents were examined through a qualitative survey questionnaire. These participants described their insights into how having a child with ASD impacted on their feelings and emotions; financial circumstances; and participation in employment, family relationships, friendships and community involvement. Participants were also asked to share some of the strategies and supports they used in order to help them cope with their daily life, as well as other supports and approaches they believe may enhance their life in the future.

The findings from this study confirmed some universal experiences of parenting a child with ASD as well as uncovering experiences that were unique to the Lao context. Notably these involved a lack of government policy support, education and professional services. Lao families who have a child with ASD make great personal and family sacrifices to maintain education opportunities for their children. They face multiple levels of complexity especially associated with the lack of an ASD diagnosis.

This study provides recommendations regarding supports for families, professionals and for disability advocacy in Laos, based on evidence-based practices from around the world that can potentially be implemented at a reasonable cost. The findings of this current study serve to provide evidence for government policy makers, funding providers and public health and education officers to incorporate family support needs into policy, and support the need for collaboration with local and international researchers and donors. The need for a standardised ASD definition, assessment and diagnosis service was at the forefront of this research, followed by the need for ongoing education, professional development and further ASD research in Laos.

Keywords: ASD, Laos, lived experience, Lao families, Autism

Subject: Disability Studies thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2018
School: College of Nursing and Health Sciences
Supervisor: Caroline Ellision