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31-08-2017 | Original Paper | Uitgave 12/2017

Journal of Child and Family Studies 12/2017

Caregivers of School-aged Children with Autism: Social Media as a Source of Support

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 12/2017
Laura Cole, Yasmin Kharwa, Nomfundo Khumalo, Jennifer S. Reinke, Saira B. S. Karrim
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The online version of this article (doi:10.​1007/​s10826-017-0855-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.


Support groups provide parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with additional support which they may not receive from health care professionals. Rapid technological growth has increased the opportunity for parents to access information and support. In this study, we used a qualitative phenomenological design to explore the use of a social media support group, on WhatsApp, to provide support to parents of children with ASD. We used convenience sampling to select six participants who had a child diagnosed with ASD who was in the foundation or intermediate phase at school and between the ages of 5 and 12 years, had been a part of the WhatsApp support group for 6 months or longer, and lived in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Data analysis revealed eight emergent themes, (a) communication support, (b) behavior support, (c) feeding support, (d) emotional support, (e) informational support, (f) the presence of a professional, (g) positive experiences in the group, and (h) limitations of the group. Findings indicate managing behavioral difficulties and emotional support for caregivers were the core functions of the group, and having a professional on the group served as a valuable resource. The use of a social media support group on WhatsApp provided ongoing support to parents of children with ASD, implying that such a group may have clinical significance for use by practitioners as well as the creation of similar groups on other platforms.

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