'Against the norm' mothering: A reflexive thematic analysis of autistic motherhood

PhD Thesis

Sanchez, P. (2023). 'Against the norm' mothering: A reflexive thematic analysis of autistic motherhood. PhD Thesis London South Bank University School of Law and Social Sciences https://doi.org/10.18744/lsbu.95443
AuthorsSanchez, P.
TypePhD Thesis

The idea of the autistic mother, and interest in autistic mothering and motherhood, is an emergent area of popular and academic interest which, until very recently, was missing from both autism and motherhood literature. Seeking to improve awareness and understanding of autistic motherhood and to make recommendations to improve our lives, this ‘insider’ research is underpinned by the disability rights slogan ‘nothing about us without us’ and the feminist slogan ‘the personal is political’. Situating this research within matricentric feminism, alongside its more typical setting within critical autism studies, enables a deeper analysis of the social and cultural expectations of motherhood and their influence on autistic mothers. Asynchronous virtual interviews, conducted using WhatsApp (n=10) and email (n=2), and with a ‘friendship as method’ approach to generating data, were conducted with 12 autistic mothers of autistic children in the UK. Data were analysed using Reflexive Thematic Analysis, resulting in the development of six themes representing patterns of shared meaning organised conceptually around identity, masking, support, mothering, motherhood and knowledge. My analysis shows how poor awareness, understanding and support of autistic mothers contributes to a perpetuation of mother blame narratives, despite participants demonstrating considerable autism expertise and being highly skilled at meeting the needs of their children. Through seeking to understand how autistic mothers negotiate being autistic, navigate motherhood and how being a autistic affects experiences of motherhood, I am able to reveal how autistic mothers are resisting normative ideals of the ‘good mother’ and how we are in the process of co-constructing our own ideal of the ‘good autistic mother’.

PublisherLondon South Bank University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.18744/lsbu.95443
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Publication dates
Print16 Oct 2023
Publication process dates
Deposited18 Oct 2023
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