"It Was Such a Different Experience": a Qualitative Study of Parental Perinatal Experiences When Having a Subsequent Child After Having a Child Diagnosed with Autism

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Abstract

Objectives Children who have an older sibling diagnosed with autism have an increased likelihood of being diagnosed with autism or developing broader developmental difficulties. This study explored perinatal experiences of parents of a child diagnosed with autism, spanning pre-conception until the subsequent child's early developmental period.

Methods Qualitative interviews were conducted with ten parents of a child diagnosed with autism, and ten parents of a child with no neurodevelopmental diagnosis, each of whom had gone on to have a subsequent child. Thematic analysis occurred concurrently with data collection and involved comparisons between the two samples.

Results Four themes were identified in relation to the perinatal period of a subsequent child following the autism diagnosis of an older child. These were parental experiences of "apprehension", "adjustment", and "adaptation", underpinned by the "importance of support". Many experiences of parenting were similar between the two groups, with comparison between the groups identifying the role of autism in an increased focus, concern, and hypervigilance to their child's development.

Conclusions Having a child diagnosed with autism intensifies some of the common experiences of parenting and infancy. The challenges identified by parents throughout the experience of parenting an infant after having a child diagnosed with autism indicate that the development of supports could help empower families in this situation going forwards.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-419
Number of pages13
JournalAdvances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Volume6
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

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