“Lo Ví En Facebook [I Saw It on Facebook]”: The Role of Social Media in Informing Underserved Latino Parents about Autism
Objectives: This study aims to understand the role of social media platforms in providing emotional and informational support to underserved/low-income Latino parents after they receive an autism-diagnosis for their children.
Methods: As part of this study, 22 self-identified Latino parents of children with ASD and 4 key informants (community leaders) were interviewed. Participants were recruited using snowball sampling and targeted Facebook advertisements. Criteria for study participation included residence in Los Angeles County, being of Latin American descent, and a parent of a child between the ages of 2 and 10 years with a professional diagnosis of ASD. Enrollment was limited to participants with low socio-economic status (SES) as defined by the U.S. Federal Poverty Guidelines used to determine financial eligibility for federal programs. In addition, key informants were eligible if they worked with low-income, Latino parents of children with autism. Focus groups and interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and independently coded for major conceptual models. Exploratory, qualitative analyses was conducted using a modified grounded theory approach. Six raters coded each transcript to ensure reliability. Data triangulation and methodology triangulation were employed to ensure validity and reliability of data interpretation.
Results: Parents reported heavily relying on social media platforms, such as Facebook and YouTube, for autism-related information after receiving a diagnosis for their child. They also reported that Facebook was one of the best ways to connect with other parents because it eliminated barriers to traditional methods of engagement, such as attending support groups. Participants reported using Facebook as a means to gather information, but also as a source of emotional support, endorsing feeling a sense of community through their online interactions with other parents. However, parents also endorsed concerns about unreliable resources being distributed across social media platforms. Community partners reported relying on Facebook as a means to keep parents engaged and informed, particularly when the parents are unable to attend in-person support groups or when bilingual professionals were limited.
Conclusions: These findings confirm that low-income Latino parents are using social media for emotional and informational support, especially when they first receive their child’s diagnosis. Understanding how Latino parents navigate and reference social media may facilitate initiatives to ensure that reliable and dependable information is accessible across social media platforms.