The current incidence of autism in South Africa is 1 :88 and is gradually increasing
(Lindenberg, 2013). A number of South African schools that cater for learners with
autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) have also emerged and aim to address the
increasing demand for the assistance of both the children diagnosed with ASD and
their families (American Psychiatric Association, 2013; Lindenberg, 2013).
By definition, respite care is an intermittent service offered to the parents of a
chronically ill child to substitute them, when they are in need of a break, from their
24/7 responsibility in caring for their child (Neufeld, Query, & Drummond, 2001).
Current literature alludes to difficulties experienced by children with ASD with
regards to their psychological, emotional and social functions, which suggests that
there may be a very real need for respite care (Benderix, Nordstrom, & Sivberg,
2006; Desai, Divan, Wertz, & Patel, 2012; Molteno, Molteno, Finchilescu, & Dawes,
2001 ; Pengelly, Rogers, & Evans, 2009; Whitaker & Hirst, 2002; Woodgate, Ateah,
& Secco, 2008).
The purpose of the current study is to explore the unique experiences of parents of
children diagnosed with ASD who utilise private respite care services in South
Africa. Primary research question: What are the experiences of South African
parents of children diagnosed with ASD who utilise private respite care in South
Africa? In conducting this study, a qualitative case study method and a research
design, that utilised interpretivism as paradigm, was used to capture the unique
experiences of parents utilising private respite care for their child with ASD. The case study was confined to parents who had recently utilised respite care at a
specific private respite care centre in South Africa. The data collection strategy
encompassed semi-structured interviews in which three parents, representing three
separate parenting styles, were interviewed. Measures were taken to ensure the
quality of the data and ethically responsible research practice.