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Last updated: 13-sep-12

Case Study: John

From the ecosystems perspective, we can look at how individual, family, and larger environmental structures affect John and his mother. We can think about what interventions are needed at each level to improve family functioning.

Individual: John’s autism impacts his behavior, his ability to communicate, and his ability to learn self-help skills. Yet, John has some strengths. He has shown progress particularly in the area of self-help. He can also be trusted not to wander off into the neighborhood, which means there is less concern about his safety.

Family: John’s mother has faced many challenges. They face the challenge of living on a low income and worrying about money. Another challenge is that Jessica has a long commute to work. She also doesn’t get to see John much because she works the second shift. Jessica also faces the challenge of her mother not understanding John’s diagnosis and blames her parenting for the problem.

At the same time, John’s family also has strengths. Jessica left the abusive relationship. She has been able to keep her job. Also, John’s aunt, Sue, is a great resource for the family because she provides day care for John while Jessica works.

Neighborhood: John’s current neighborhood is not a supportive environment. John’s mother is afraid for John to play outside because she is afraid the other boys in the neighborhood will bully him. The family’s current neighborhood is also very far from Jessica’s work place. Also, this neighborhood is two blocks from John’s father, and living this close to Jessica’s ex-husband creates stress for the family.

Political-Economic Environment: One of the problems that Jessica faces is inadequate economic resources. Jessica cannot afford to have a reliable car and worries that the car will break down and she will be unable to get to work. She would like to move, but she needs to save money in order to move. She is unable to be promoted at her job because she has only a high school diploma. Thus, she has little hope of improving her salary. Jessica knows that she cannot afford daycare and worries about what will happen if Sue is no longer able to take care of John in the evenings.

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Center on Human Development and Disability, Clinical Training Unit, University of Washington,
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