The lived experience of mothering a child with autism: a hermeneutic phenomenological understanding
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Autism Spectrum Disorder is a complex developmental disorder with increasing prevalence. Despite the significant role of mothers, often seen as primary caregivers, there is limited understanding of this experience. The purpose of this study was to explore the everyday experience of mothers with children with autism. Accounts of lived experience were collected through research conversations with six mothers and analyzed using van Manen’s (1990) orientation to hermeneutic phenomenology. The main themes include: It Can’t Be Autism, The Womb is Extended, The Locus of Other, and The Womb is Now and is Forever. The findings suggest that mothers experienced a transformation from mother to mother with a child with autism; one that mirrors the transformation from woman to mother (Bergum, 1989). In this transformation, mothers move from suspicion of the potential diagnosis to acceptance that they are mothers with children whose needs define them and potentially, mothers whose wombs are forever extended.