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Keywords:

  • autism;
  • stigma;
  • family;
  • disability

Abstract This paper reports the results of a study of felt and enacted stigma among a sample of parents of children with high functioning autism. The results indicate that a majority of the parents experienced both types of stigma, but that mothers were more likely to do so than fathers. This was especially true in the case of enacted stigma, where a majority of mothers, but only a minority of fathers, encountered avoidance, hostile staring and rude comments from others. The child's type of autistic symptoms was also related to the stigmatisation of their parents, with parents of aggressive children more likely to experience stigma than the parents of passive children. The study also found that the distinction between felt and enacted stigma was more distinct analytically than it was in practice, as many parents tended to conflate the different types of stigma. The results of the study are considered in the context of the changing conceptualisations of, and treatments for, high functioning autism and their implications for the stigmatisation of parents.