Experiences of parents of children with rare neurogenetic conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic: an interpretative phenomenological analysis.
Martin JA., Robertson K., Richards C., Scerif G., Baker K., Tye C.
BACKGROUND: The Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted parental and child mental health and wellbeing in the UK. This study aimed to explore the experiences of parents of children with rare neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions with a known or suspected genetic cause (neurogenetic) across the first year of the pandemic in the UK. METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 11 parents of children with rare neurogenetic conditions. Parents were recruited via opportunity sampling from the CoIN Study, a longitudinal quantitative study exploring the impact of the pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of families with rare neurogenetic conditions. Interviews were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. RESULTS: Four main themes were identified: (1) "A varied impact on child wellbeing: from detrimental to 'no big drama'"; (2) "Parental mental health and wellbeing: impact, changes, and coping"; (3) "'The world had shut its doors and that was that': care and social services during the pandemic"; and (4) "Time and luck: abstract concepts central to parents' perspectives of how they coped during the pandemic". The majority of parents described experiencing an exacerbation of pre-pandemic challenges due to increased uncertainty and a lack of support, with a minority reporting positive effects of the pandemic on family wellbeing. CONCLUSIONS: These findings offer a unique insight into the experiences parents of children with rare neurogenetic conditions across the first year of the pandemic in the UK. They highlight that the experiences of parents were not pandemic-specific, and will continue to be highly relevant in a non-pandemic context. Future support should to be tailored to the needs of families and implemented across diverse future scenarios to promote coping and positive wellbeing.