Sensory Experiences of Autistic Mothers

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Full paper:

Nothing about us without us
Who: Talcer, Duffy, & Pedlow
Journal: Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders
Published: 2021
Title: A Qualitative Exploration into the Sensory Experiences of Autistic Mothers

Sensory Experiences of Autistic Mothers

This study wanted to explore the sensory experiences of autistic mothers, the impact on their role as mother, and the coping strategies they employ


They included 7 autistic mothers who identified as women, spoke English and were over the age of 18.

One individual was not included in the research as they were under the age of 18.

Six of the mothers were white, and one did not disclose their ethnicity.

The autistic mothers engaged in a detailed interview over the phone or internet.


After analysing the conversations, they found five main themes, and 17 subthemes.

[Chart showing five main themes:
Sensory experiences in motherhood.
Strategies & needs.

There are 17 subthemes;
Antenatal: Pregnancy, Severe sickness, labour & birth.
Sensory experiences in motherhood: auditory, tactile, body awareness, smell, vision.
Impact: social, work, mental health/anxiety, overwhelm/fatigue.
Strategies & needs: Use strategies: downtime, ask for help, sensory strategies, knowledge & research, find your tribe, planning & routine. Needs: autistic mother’s group, professionals training.
Diagnosis: late diagnosis, impact of diagnosis, benefits of diagnosis.]


Autistic mothers reported increased sensory reactivity, especially to auditory and tactile stimuli. This impacted many areas of their mothering role, & led to high levels of stress, fatigue, overwhelm, & anxiety.

They were unable to withdraw from auditory stimuli such as a crying baby, or from tactile experiences, such as the baby’s need for comfort.

Many found breastfeeding to be extremely painful, but persisted for their baby.

Despite reporting multiple difficulties, the mothers were always able to act in their child’s best interest, often putting their child’s needs above their own.

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