Crying in the park: Autism stigma, school entry and maternal subjectivity

Abstract

In this article I focus on the experiences of mothers of children diagnosed with autism as they respond to, and are shaped by, encounters with stigmatising practices at primary school entry. Analysing narratives recorded during interviews with 22 mothers of children diagnosed with autism in Sydney, Australia, I argue that Erving Goffman's theorising around 'courtesy stigma' is inadequate to the task of understanding the felt experiences of these women. I propose the notion of 'attachment stigma', which more readily does the double work of referring to both the intersubjective mother/child relationship, often intensified and prolonged due to disability, and the role of mothering ideologies in shaping stigmatising responses. Mothers' school exclusion narratives point to the salience of experiences of stigmatisation in the lives of families of children with autism, and to the continuing force of gendered moral rationalities underpinned by punishing notions of 'good' and 'bad' mothering.

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Lilley, R., (2013) “Crying in the park: Autism stigma, school entry and maternal subjectivity”, Studies in the Maternal 5(2), p.1-28. doi: https://doi.org/10.16995/sim.21

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Rozanna Lilley

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