Dear Parent/ Guardian,

My name is Amy Dixon I am a 3rd year Psychology and Counselling BA (Hons) studying at the University of Derby, England. As part of my degree course, I am conducting a study into an area of my choice. I am particularly interested in the experiences of parents who have autistic children and how they cope with any difficulties, and am contacting you to invite you to participate in a study of the experience of bringing up a child with autism.

The research I am conducting is an interview using questions that invite you to discuss ways of coping relating to your child’s developmental disorder. If you feel that there are particularly important areas that you’d like to express during the interview then this is entirely appropriate as I am fascinated to hear about your experiences.

Previous research has explored many aspects of bringing up a child with autism. For example studies have identified how a child’s delays or deficits in social development and specific problems in the parent–child relationship can cause distress for mothers and fathers. Research into methods that can be used to help coping, such as the use of positive touch used in daily life provide insight into how the emotional barriers created by autism can be partially overcome.

Despite the difficulties and struggles parents may face, the influence of having an autistic child on family life is also portrayed as a positive life-changing experience and it is the breadth of details of the experience that this study will continue to extend.

This study will add further insight to the current research field, helping to provide further information for parents, researchers and organisational bodies. Research studies, such as this, are integral to the improvement of existing support services as they contribute further detail into the life experiences of children, families and parents experiences of living with autism.

Participating in this research will allow you to air all the personal views you hold regarding the difficulties, the experience of raising your child and all the coping methods you personally find useful. This is an opportunity to express all of the opinions you have formed and to explore the coping skills you have developed. Such self reflection may benefit you as your acknowledge all the areas you deal with, but also, when the works published, your experiences may help inform other parents. Your experiences may provide guidance or inspire other parents and prompt reflection onto their own ways of coping and dealing with any difficulties they face.

The research will be conducted via email and will involve participants responding to questions within a week of them being sent out, as this allows me time to transcribe data.

Participation is entirely voluntary and I would be very grateful to anyone who is willing to help me investigate this area further.

The interview data will be written up and analysed. Analysis will be conducted using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis which is a method that acknowledges the importance of the ways in which people explain their experiences.

Participants who take part will have their data altered so that no original names are used and thus no participants will be identifiable when the data is published after analysis. I, my supervisor and the marker of research are the only individuals who will see the raw data of the experiment, which is the data before the process of anonymising the data has occurred.

If participants wish to withdraw their data during or after the experiment they can do so using the unique alpha-numerical code created by combining:

Your mother’s maiden name, Eg. Smith

and

the last three digits of your mobile telephone NUMBER, 567

So your code would be Smith567

This can later be used to identify their data, allowing for data to be correctly withdrawn if this is requested by the participants.

Participants who wish to withdraw their data after it has been collected in may do so up until the 20th March 2010 by contacting a.dixon1@unimail.derby.ac.uk


Thank you for taking the time to read this and those who are interested can sign up via emailing a.dixon1@unimail.derby.ac.uk.

Best Wishes,

Amy Dixon

University of Derby, England.