FIVE WAYS TO COPE WITH PARENTING A CHILD WITH AUTISM

Caring for a child with Autism can be a gruelling experience physically, financially and mentally: from physical aches and pain that arise from managing autistic fits, therapy sessions that sometimes cost an ‘arm and a leg’, to the emotional tumult of having to watch your child embattle the bleak realities of autism, sometimes with no hope yet in sight. All of these can bring about despondency and fatigue. While it is essential to empathise with your child with special needs, and give them all the love that they need, it is just as important to ensure your own stability, health and wellbeing. While trying to get your child well, you must be well yourself; you can’t give what you don’t have! 

Just in case you are already getting overwhelmed with caring for your child/ward with Autism, or they just got diagnosed with ASD, (making you a newbie in the Autism arena, even better), not to worry, we have provided a few tips here to help you cope in difficult times

 1. VENT!

Everyone needs a healthy way of letting out painful emotions; repressed anger, fear, anxiety, sadness et cetera, can constitute a huge blockade to mental health. Apart from the build-up of stress, repression has been linked to a number of diseases like: Asthma, High Blood Pressure, Diabetes and overall ill health. It is okay to cry when you feel overwhelmed, bottling things up may do more damage. If you need a vacation take it, and if you need to punch something, let the wall have it! Just let it out! 

2. SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP

Your child/ward with Autism might not be the only one who needs therapy, you probably do too. Counselling can help you find comfort and gain proper perspective on things; amongst which is the fact that Autism is not a death sentence! It is a neurodevelopmental difference and with proper care, your child can be nurtured into becoming more self-reliant and self-determining. It is important that you hear this from an authority figure to help you release some tension.

3. JOIN A SUPPORT GROUP

Parents, guardians and caregivers need as much empathy as those on the spectrum they are caring for. No one understands that better than those already walking in your shoes; they feel the pain and the pressure of what you are going through like no one else can, and can empathise with you when the going gets tough. There is a lot you can glean from the experiences and insights those before you have garnered while wading through the murky waters of Autism.

 4. BE A LITTLE VULNERABLE

Don’t be afraid to let your friends and family in on your challenges whenever you feel overwhelmed. While projecting an image of strength and self-reliance, be careful not to seem standoffish. Allow them to be of help whenever they offer to. It is important to realise that you can crumble under the weight of the burden of caring for your child with autism; carrying on all by yourself will ultimately lead to burnout and like we have discussed before, ‘Stress’ is an enemy in this territory. You really don’t have the luxury of ‘breaking down’; your child/ward needs you.

5. REINVENT. REFOCUS. REFIRE

Another downside to your daily routine and child care regimen is boredom, and it is as much a problem as stress is. Boredom can rob you of your fervour; you do need to stay inspired and hopeful. Try spicing things up a bit by doing something for you; go somewhere new, read a book, visit with an old friend, try a new recipe, acquire a new skill. The goal here is not to make you forget your challenges; it is to rekindle your inner fire, and give you a renewed sense of commitment to seeing your child get better. Don’t forget your inner child while looking after the one with Autism, the latter needs nurturing and caring too; every child does.

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