The qualitative research, which included the data reported here, looked at the perceptions, support and awareness needs of parents of children living with autism spectrum disorders. 46 parents were interviewed separately or in pairs. Thematic review of the results showed the difficulty of parents keeping their children out of public places.
The qualitative study from which the data reported here are taken, explored the experiences, support and information needs of parents of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. 46 parents were interviewed either individually or in couples. Thematic analysis of the data revealed the complexity involved for the parents in taking their children out in public places. The emotion work parents conduct in public places both to make their children more acceptable within the space and to reduce the discomfort that others experience, helps to preserve the orderliness of public places. However, the special competence that parents developed over time also masks their turbulent feelings in public encounters.
The description of public interactions as the ‘hardest thing’ to deal with highlights the centrality of public encounters to our everyday lives. The combination the intense distress public places can create for children with ASD, the effect of the disciplinary gaze and lack of understanding often shown by people present and the emotional turbulence this creates for the parents, led parents to take their children out less. This is a matter of concern, not only for the children, their parents and other family members, but also for society more generally.