Raising a child with autism is not an easy task. Some children have limited communication; you may deal with tantrums and meltdowns. Your friends and relatives may not understand or think you are exaggerating symptoms. Your life seems like one constant battle. You aren’t sure if you are doing everything right…or everything wrong.
The following are some ways you can help your child and yourself:
Learn everything you can about autism. The more information you have, the more you can understand and help your child. Read books and articles, look for local lectures, join support groups. Find out as much as you can about how autism impacts a child’s life. Remember, though, that autism is a spectrum disorder and there is no specific set of symptoms that occurs in every person with autism. Each person is unique and may or may not have similar symptoms. Learning about autism will give you the knowledge to help friends, relatives and teachers understand what your child needs.
Develop a network. Just as your child needs different types of care, you need support as well. There are days you will be overwhelmed and days you question your ability to best care for your child. There will be times you are frustrated or feel hopeless. There are days you worry about your child’s future. Developing a network of support gives you people to talk to, lean on, ask advice or socialize. Your network should include a variety of people (including online support groups) so that no matter what your needs, you have someone you can call.
Let go of family expectations and accept your family as it is. You may have imagined a family that took vacations to Disney World or spent summer weekends going to the beach. But your child with autism may find the activities you imagined overwhelming. Modify your expectations to fit your child’s needs. If you have more than one child, find ways to spend time with each separately with some activities that you can all do as a family.
Keep in mind your child’s behaviors, although sometimes difficult, are not “bad,” meant to embarrass you or done to hurt you. Your child doesn’t have a meltdown in the middle of the grocery store to embarrass you or make you angry, he does so because he is frustrated or overstimulated. Work to understand the reason behind the behavior can help you prevent or better deal with difficult behaviors.
Find ways to have fun with your child. Many parents worry that they aren’t going to be able to develop a close and loving relationship with their child with autism. But moms of children with autism are just as likely to report a close relationship with their child than those moms of neurotypical children [Pediatrics]. Remember that while therapy is an important part of your child’s development, there should be time for fun as well.
Listen to advice from others but take only what you need. When you mention that you have a child with autism, everyone wants to give your advice. You will hear what worked for Bobby down the street or for the nephew of a co-worker. You will hear advice from neighbors, friends, co-workers and relatives. Take it all in but, again, remember each person with autism is unique, so use only what you need.
Find time for yourself. You need time for yourself, even if for only a few minutes each day. If you are married, ask your spouse to give you an hour every other day to relax, and then give the same to him. Use this time to read a book, watch television alone, go for a walk, go to the mall. The important thing is just to take some time to relax and unwind. Make sure to also find some time to go out, alone, with your spouse. While this may be difficult, it is important to reconnect with your spouse. Raising a child with special needs can interfere with relationships and it is easy to put aside your relationship to focus on your child, but, your marriage needs to be a priority too.
Published On: July 22, 2013