Qualitative Research


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Two Qualitative Research Studies on Autism   

Various research studies have been conducted to investigate aspects of people living with autism. In this paper, the focus will be on two qualitative research articles carried out in the field of autism. The first one is Barbera’s article titled “The Experiences of “Autism Mothers” who become Behavior Analysts: A Qualitative Study” and Minnesota Department of Health’s article titled “A Qualitative Study of Families of Children with Autism in the Somali Community: Comparing the Experiences of Immigrant Groups”.

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            Barbera’s (2009) qualitative article sought to investigate the participant’s transformation from playing the mother’s role to that of an applied behavior analysis professional, their perception of the parent-professional collaboration and their proposals on ways to teach parents of recently diagnosed kids with autism. The study involved six participants (mothers with autistic children) who had undergone the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) course. All the six participants received invitations to participate via email, and they all replied to the affirmative after being assured of confidentiality.

            In carrying out the research, the research sought to answer the following questions: (a) “What’s their experience and driving force to become BCBA professional? (b) How do they feel working as BCBA professionals? (c) What kind of training could support parents whose children have been recently diagnosed with autism (Barbera, 2009)? The participants were enlisted by appealing to volunteers that employ BCBA professionals who were then issued out with questionnaires. Data was then analyzed based on guidelines established in qualitative analysis and identifying content themes based on the similarities of the answers. Data presentation was done in long sentences that did not give the exact numbers of participants who, for instance, felt that advocacy was required to access necessary services. Inductive reasoning was used to derive findings from the results obtained.

            On the other hand, the Minnesota Department of Health’s study sought to understand resource-based and cultural aspects of autism spectrum disorder that is peculiar to the Somali and by extension the Latino and Hmong communities. The research questions revolved around describing the challenges faced in early detection of autism, difficulties faced by families when seeking services and proposals that would help in addressing the above challenges. These questions allowed the participants to deeply reflect and explain the challenges that were faced during the identification of autism and ways to address them.

            The study embraced community-based participatory research that allowed the team to involve the community that involved interviewing 55 key informants and 70 parents using individual interviews and focus group discussions. These methods were important for understanding the issue of study as they were able to capture the general feelings of the community towards autism in ways that quantitative research could not capture. The methods embraced allowed the researchers to dwell on the research topic in detail and in depth while avoiding prejudgments. The entire research process was undertaken in two stages. The first one involved conducting interviews with all key informants who had knowledge of families facing autism-related problems within the community while the second one entailed using the information obtained from the interviews to facilitate the design of recruitment methods as well as survey questions for use during parent interviews. Data presentation entailed a generalization of facts after categorizing the answers into themes based on their similarities and as such embraced inductive reasoning. For instance, the research team generalized that there was a common lack of understanding about autism.

            In conclusion, carrying out qualitative research studies in the field of autism is not an easy task. Researchers need to manage potential negative emotional effects that arise from conducting qualitative as well as empathizing with the participants in order to maintain objectivity and validity of findings.


Barbera, M. (2009). The Experiences of “Autism Mothers” who become Behavior Analysts: A     Qualitative Study. Behavior Analyst Online Journal, 4, 57-73

Minnesota Department of Health. (2014). A Qualitative Study of Families of Children with Autism in the Somali Community: Comparing the Experiences of Immigrant Groups. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Department of Health.

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