Yesterday, I defended my dissertation, which explored the role of religion on the daily livesof Jewish parents of children with autism. I am grateful both to the people who supported me through the years – my family, friends, classmates and professors – and also to the parents who participated in my research.
Mothers and fathers of children with and without autism took time out of their busy and stressful lives to complete my online surveys and to do a phone interview for up to two hours. The parents of children with autism face so many challenges, yet they shared their stories with me. Their positive energy and strength amazed me.
At times when I find myself stressed out, I stop and think about these moms and dads and how they manage everything. They cope with financial challenges and family disruptions and fight ceaselessly on behalf of their child.
Many of them simply want their family and child to be accepted by others. Others want the opportunity to provide their family and child with the chance to engage in Jewish traditions and practices. Some of the things most of us take for granted are challenges for these families. Yet they stay positive, maintain their Jewish background to the extent that is possible and learn to appreciate every moment. These parents are role models. They enjoy and appreciate life every day.
I hope that I have done justice in describing their lives. I plan to publish portions of my dissertation in different research scientific journals and hope that it will inspire other researchers and clinicians. These parents need interventions and resources that will help them provide their child with the best religious and secular experiences.
Dr. Frances Victory received her PhD in Developmental Psychology at CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. Her thesis was titled, “Exploring the Role of Perceived Religiosity on Daily Life, Coping, and Parenting for Jewish Parents of Children with Autism.” You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org