Living with autism isn’t easy for anyone. While the person diagnosed with autism struggles the most, being the primary caregiver is often stressful. Relationships with your spouse and other children can suffer as they lack attention. Although it feels unnatural to take care of yourself when your child has such overwhelming needs, it is foundational for most of us to make it work effectively.
Learn to ask for help: No one can care for others when they’re exhausted and overwhelmed themselves, yet parents of autistic children may feel like they don’t want to be a burden to others. Family members and people in your social circle often want to help but don’t know how. We need to practice reaching out.
Take a break before you reach your breaking point: The more severe your child’s autism, the greater the physical and emotional demands on you. Take advantage of opportunities when someone else is available to be with your child, such as the other parent or a personal care attendant, and do something for yourself that you enjoy. Small things like a walk outside, bath, or reading time can help us recharge.
Support groups are invaluable: Most people mean well, but they just don’t get it if they don’t have an autistic child living with them. Other parents of children on the spectrum know what you deal with each day, even if their situation isn’t the same. You can vent about living with autism, get ideas, gain strength to face your challenges, and offer support to others.
Seek at least one person who you allows you to be totally real: You love your child fiercely and would do anything to help him or her succeed in life. Because of this, you may feel like you should put on a brave front to the world. Make sure there’s at least one person in your life who won’t feel uncomfortable when you cry or express emotions like frustration or anger. Being able to express these things helps you move on better than you could if you just allowed them to fester.
Start your child’s intensive treatment program as soon as possible: After your child has been diagnosed and you have found an educational program for him or her, don’t delay in getting started with it. This frees up some of your time so you can care for yourself as well as learn more about being the best possible special needs parent you can be.
Free Range Lives offers many resources for parents, teachers, and caregivers of autistic children. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me personally if you can’t find what you need.