The knowledge and experiences of single mothers raising an autistic child in a low-income community in the Western Cape
Parental knowledge and experiences regarding autism spectrum disorder have a huge effect on the life of the caregiver. Once a child has been diagnosed and needs treatment, parents/caregivers have to adjust in many ways. The adjustment will vary depending on the needs of the child at that particular point. Caregivers to an autistic child have to acquire comprehensive knowledge regarding autism spectrum disorder. A support system plays a pivotal role in the raising of an autistic child. The objective of this study was to explore the knowledge, experiences and coping mechanisms of single mothers raising an autistic child in a low-income community in Western Cape Province. A qualitative research approach was employed to gain access to the experiences of single mothers raising an autistic child, and in-depth interviews were conducted with six single mothers from a low-income community. Transcriptions were analysed in accordance with the approach of thematic analysis. Results indicated that participants experience many challenges: lack of knowledge, inexperience, personal challenges, and society’s perceptions of autism were highlighted. Participant’s social support given by family, community and organisations they allowed for coping and resilience to outweigh the challenges. The single mother’s experiences varied however the resilience has allowed them to cope and gain the needed inner strength to embrace the experience each day. Further research is needed to highlight fathers’ experiences and their coping mechanisms in raising an autistic child.