A portfolio of work on mother-child dyad and autism : a counselling psychology perspective
Several researchers have reported that parenting a child diagnosed with autism is linked with a high risk of presenting mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. The current study gave the opportunity to eight mothers of children diagnosed with mild or moderate symptoms of autism to voice the challenges they face in their parental role so as to better understand their needs, and to provide appropriate services for them. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the mothers and were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Three themes arose from the analysis of data. The first theme is ambiguous loss, and is concerned with mothers’ way of dealing with the loss of their dreamed-for child. The second theme is identity shift, and is concerned with the change in the way mothers experienced and identified themselves after their child was diagnosed with autism. The third theme is withdrawing from others, and focuses on mothers' descriptions of their experiences of others' reaction towards both them and towards their child’s condition. ‘Disequilibrium’ emerged as the essence of maternal experience as mothers described their difficulty in balancing their personal needs with those of their child. The information from this study may be used to provide professionals working with this population with advanced understanding about the experiences and the challenges faced by mothers in their attempt to sustain their sense of self and remain sensitive to the needs of their children.