Autism in the Context of Humanitarian Emergency: The Lived Experiences of Syrian Refugee Mothers of Children on the Autism Spectrum




Syrian crisis, autism, Syrian refugees, resettlement, forced migration


This study explored the resettlement experiences of Syrian refugees accessing supports and services for their autistic children in Alberta, Canada. Using interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA), in-depth interviews with three participants led to seven shared themes regarding parental experiences with the Syrian crisis, access to supports and services, barriers to resettlement, and sentiments regarding their resettlement. Findings are explained using migrant adaptation models to situate practice within a social justice orientation by understanding the perspectives of vulnerable migrant populations. Practical implications include ways to benefit refugees, imbue culture within practice, inform policy initiatives, and highlight the importance of trauma-informed care.


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Author Biographies

Abdullah Bernier, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Abdullah Bernier is a Doctoral Student in the Werklund School of Education, at the University of Calgary. He can be reached at

Adam McCrimmon, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Adam McCrimmon is an Associate Professor in the Werklund School of Education, at the University of Calgary. He can be reached at

Sumaya Nsair, Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Sumaya Nsair is a Doctoral Student in the Schulich School of Engineering, at the University of Calgary and language liaison for the Syrian Refugee project. She can be reached at

Henna Hans, Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Henna Hans is a graduate student at the University of Lethbridge. She can be reached at


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How to Cite

Bernier, A., McCrimmon, A., Nsair, S., & Hans, H. (2024). Autism in the Context of Humanitarian Emergency: The Lived Experiences of Syrian Refugee Mothers of Children on the Autism Spectrum. Refuge: Canada’s Journal on Refugees, 39(2), 1–21.

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