Parents of children on the Autism Spectrum

Effect on parents; rewards

The experience of having a child or children on the autism spectrum greatly affected the lives of most of the parents we interviewed. Parents talked openly about both the positive and negative aspects of this impact. Many described their children in glowing terms; these descriptions are presented in ‘The children’. Most parents described their children as “very rewarding”, “refreshing”, “hilarious” and “really good fun to be with”. Many parents also felt that they themselves had benefited and become more understanding and less judgemental of difference.

Some parents' views of disabled people had changed considerably and they had learned to value disabled people in a way they hadn't before. For example, one mother had realised “that everybody who might have been written off by society have something so valuable that they can give to their mums, their dads, to society, to themselves”. Another mother had learnt that you “never know the full story” and it was wrong to judge other people. Some parents also said their non-disabled children had learnt to be more tolerant and accepting.

Some parents expressed deep appreciation of their children’s achievements and the immense pleasure they got from their children learning to talk or play with others. One mother said she would be “on the ceiling for a week” when her daughter learnt to say “Mummy”. Another said, “I wouldn’t swap them for anything because I think just having them is wonderful.”

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Several parents were involved in support groups or campaigning for better services for disabled children, and that they could be useful and productive gave them satisfaction. One father described how, “If Andrew wasn’t autistic then I would have just carried on my own little life, the way I was doing it before”. Instead he had set up a support group and met a lot of different people (see ‘Support groups’).Some parents were also glad to be out of the “rat race” of buying designer football boots and the “latest gear”.

Some of the parents who had more than one child on the spectrum described how the autism was not that important. One mother said that she didn’t know if “it would have made any difference to me had they been autistic or not, to be honest. They are just my boys”. A few other parents said some of the challenges they faced were no different from the challenges other families faced with non-disabled children.

Last reviewed July 2017.

Last updated November 2012.

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