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Confirmation of Candidature - Candidate : Lisa Connolly

Exploring the Lives of Parents and Carers With an Autism Diagnosis.
21 NOV 2022
11.30 AM - 1.00 PM

Autism is a condition that can lead to deficits in social interaction and communication, restrictive patterns of behaviours, and sensory issues. The World Health Organization reported that approximately 1 in 100 children has autism (2022), a number that is supported in other literature (APA, 2013; Lai et al., 2014). However, despite the fact that these autistic children become autistic adults and may have romantic relationships that lead to children, not much research has been conducted on the experiences of autistic parents. 

Current literature on the autistic parents is fairly sparse in comparison to autism in general, parenting, or autistic adults. As of May 12, 2022, there were only 14 open-access studies available to view that researched autistic parents. The studies varied somewhat in scope, topic, participants, research methods, and data analysis. A majority had only female participants (with only one study specifically focusing on autistic fathers). 12 of the studies interacted with participants with interviews or questionnaires, and 2 studies analysing online articles and/or blogs. 

This study aims to explore the experiences of autistic parents holistically- meaning that the participants are not viewed as singularly "autistic", "parent", or "an autistic parent", but as a fully-formed human being with lives that encompass a wide array of relationships, responsibilities, and activities. As such, this study will be phenomenological in nature, as it aims to explore life experiences of autistic parents. Semi-structured interviews will be utilised for data collection as it allows for a more back-and-forth conversation and discussion between the interviewer and interviewee. 

I will utilise a reflexive thematic analytic approach (Braun & Clarke, 2022) to data analysis. This allows for a more in-depth analysis, while also acknowledging that the researcher brings their own background and knowledge to the creation of codes. This is especially important in this study, as I am a child-free autistic adult interviewing autistic adults with children. 

Research Questions:
1.           How do adults with children and an autism diagnosis experience life?
a)           Which aspects of their identity do they place more priority on?
b)          What, if any, aspects of having an autism diagnosis and being a parent do they feel are misunderstood or misconceived by society?

This study hopes to contribute to future research by acknowledging that autistic adults can simultaneously be parents as well as having fully-formed lives of their own. Although there still needs to be research on the specific strengths and challenges of being an autistic parent, current literature seems to suggest that once an autistic adult has a child, they do not have other components to their life other than parenting. This is an inaccurate and harmful view on autistic adults who may have other strengths and challenges outside of their life as a parent.

For more information or zoom link, please email the Graduate Research School or phone (07) 4631 1088.  The zoom links are included in the ReDTrain Bulletin.