Parenting a child with autism

ABSTRACT Objective: This study analyzes subjective aspects associated with parents’ perception of the changes that have affected their lives since the birth of their child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Methods: A qualitative study, using a narrative approach. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 7 fathers and 16 mothers of children with ASD enrolled in a special needs school in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. The interviews were transcribed, analytical categories were defined, and data interpreted. Results: Five categories were identified: “Emotional and Health-Related Effects”, “Effects on Daily/Professional and Academic Life”, “Effects on Marital and/or Affective/Sexual Life”, “Effects on Social Life”, “Adaptation Strategies”. The analysis showed that, despite the impacts suffered, social support, professional help can facilitate parents’ adjustment to life changes following the birth of a child with ASD. Conclusion: The physical and emotional demands of living with and parenting a child with ASD are enormous, include changes in social roles and in couples’ social and affective/sexual lives, highlighting the need for parents to receive support from healthcare professionals, particularly mental health professionals. Care strategies need to be implemented for parents, in addition to the healthcare provided to their children, in order to improve the comprehensive care given to the child with ASD.