Joanne Heeney

Fathers with Autistic Children

PhD Women’s Studies (in progress), University of York - supervised by Professor Victoria Robinson
MA in Social Work, Liverpool Hope University and currently teaching there in Social Policy

Research has the power to define what counts as meaningful and worthy, and to produce valid subjects; research with fathers who have autistic children generally reflects culturally acceptable conceptualisations of fathering (and mothering) embedded in the typical, heterosexual family unit with its corresponding gender roles. Furthermore, men’s accounts of life with autistic children often incorrectly assumes fathers have ‘issues’ with care, disability or autism itself. Lack of reflexivity in analysis has led to an overly literal interpretation of what fathers say and an inadequate analysis of how fathering is constrained and organised by culture and context.

With these comments in mind, this research project seeks to examine the relationship between fathers and their autistic sons and daughters. It has a focus on 'practices' - the Everyday, routine activities that make up fathering, and seeks to address the following initial questions:

  • How does gender and disability ideology influence fathering and paternal practices and how
    does this change in time and context?
  • What does it mean to be a good father and how does this change across time and space?
  • How do fathers of autistic children construct and legitimise their practices as parents and how does this change according to time and location?
  • What are the methodological challenges of research with men conducted from the
    perspective of a working class mother of an autistic child?

This study uses participant- generated visual ethnographic methods and narrative approaches and is underpinned by feminist disability theory, intersectional feminist theory and contemporary masculinities/ gender theory.

Last Updated: November 14, 2016 |

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