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Title: Autism and the experience of closeness : an interpretative phenomenological study
Author: Schwaerzler, Josef
ISNI:       0000 0004 2733 5812
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2012
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The present study is the first qualitative investigation of the experiences of closeness in romantic relationships for individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their partners. Eight participants in long term relationships, four of whom had been diagnosed with ASD, four of whom had partners with a diagnosis, were interviewed regarding their understandings and experiences of closeness in the context of their relationships. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was chosen as the method of analysis. Three dominant themes emerged: closeness as authenticity, discovering the partner, and autism as an essential difference. These themes were present in all participants’ accounts. Subordinate themes revealed distinctions in the experiences of participants with and without a diagnosis, but, overall, commonalities were as significant as differences. The experience of closeness required that the partner felt able to express freely his or her “authentic” self through his or her actions, in the confidence that these would be understood, accepted, and responded to by the partner in a congruent fashion. Participants’ understandings of ASD, as well as their partners’, were integral to their experiences of closeness; within the diverse accounts gathered, autism presented both obstacles to, and opportunities for, the experience of closeness. The findings resonate with some aspects of dominant models of autism and closeness, but problematise others, and demonstrate the distinct contribution that qualitative research can make to the understanding of these constructs and their relationship to each other. Consideration is given to the implications of the findings for clinical work with people in relationships where one partner has a diagnosis of ASD, and to potential directions for future research.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral