The experiences of mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder: Managing family routines and mothers’ health and wellbeing
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© 2018 Occupational Therapy Australia Background/aim: Families of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) use family routines to provide predictability and structure to support occupational engagement of their family members. Mothers assume the major role to orchestrate occupations in constructing family routines, which may impact their health and wellbeing. However, the experiences of mothers in managing family routines and their health and wellbeing have not been the main focus in previous research. Thus, this study explored the experiences of mothers of children with ASD in managing family routines and their perceptions of the impact of family routines on their health and wellbeing. Methods: An interpretive phenomenological approach was used. Twenty mothers of children with ASD, aged between 28 and 56 years, participated in semi-structured interviews. Data were transcribed verbatim and each transcript was analysed. Results: Five themes that summarise mothers’ perceptions towards health and wellbeing when managing family routines emerged: (i) Keeping on track keeping healthy; (ii) My life is busy, because I do everything for everyone else; (iii) Keeping on track all the time is tiring or frustrating; (iv) Looking after my family by looking after myself; and (v) I am not perfect and it is OK. Conclusion: This study highlighted the substantial efforts required in constructing family routines that may be at the cost of mothers’ health and wellbeing. However, mothers may be able to cope with everyday demands in managing family routines by changing their perspectives. By integrating ‘me-time’ activities in family routines, mothers may be able to support their own health and wellbeing. Mothers’ values and needs are reflected in family routines; hence, thorough understanding of family routines may be a key to support mothers’ occupational engagement.
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