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Predicting Parent Reactions at Diagnostic Disclosure Sessions for Autism

Abstract

Receiving a diagnosis of autism for their child can be a pivotal moment for parents, yet there is little research about how providers can predict parent reactions and adjust their feedback. We investigated factors related to parent reactions during the disclosure session using interviews with providers (n = 6), a parent focus group (n = 10), and a mixed-methods survey of parents (n = 189) of recently diagnosed children. Parents’ prior knowledge of autism and anxiety about diagnosis predicted emotional reactions and readiness for next steps. Families anxious about receiving a diagnosis are most in need of information but may leave the session feeling lost and unprepared. Providers can promote positive emotional reactions for parents and prevent confusion by increasing their own positivity, warmth, respect, clarity, and confidence.

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Acknowledgments

This manuscript is based on Dr. Anderberg’s doctoral dissertation. We express our thanks to the providers and parents who participated in this study. Thanks also to Drs. Terisa Gabrielsen, Jon Cox, Rebecca Lundwall and Kat Green for their contributions and to Matthew Hartnett for assistance with coding.

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Contributions

Dr. Anderberg conceived of the study and managed data collection. Both authors contributed to study design, and data analysis and interpretation. Both authors made substantial contributions to manuscript writing and review.

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Correspondence to Mikle South.

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Cite this article

Anderberg, E., South, M. Predicting Parent Reactions at Diagnostic Disclosure Sessions for Autism. J Autism Dev Disord 51, 3533–3546 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-020-04817-5

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Keywords

  • Autism
  • Diagnostic disclosure
  • Diagnostic feedback
  • Parents
  • Diagnostic evaluation
  • Assessment