Living with autism often feels challenging and isolating, for the Autistic person as well as for their parents. However, there are means available to help alleviate the daily challenges that come with the diagnosis. Below are some tips and resources to support the daily efforts of parents and caretakers.
- Utilize social media | Social media is a fantastic resource for finding community forums, social and emotional support groups, autism-specific activities, sources of financial aid, and more. There are online groups for nearly every topic, so you’re very likely to find support in the social media world! Share your struggles, your advice, and your recommendations. Engaging with other parents can ease feelings of isolation and help us find answers and recommendations.
- Seek help, ask questions, and socialize | Pursue respite when you need it and make accepting help a part of your regular routine. If you need help, be specific about what you need and be sure to emphasize that you need help – every parent does at times! Delegate daily tasks to others to alleviate some of the stress on yourself. People who you’ve met through your personal experience with autism are typically happy to answer questions, especially fellow parents, so ask them. If you feel it could offer relief, explore professional help, such as counseling. Also, branch out and build a rapport within your communities, autism-related and not. It’s easier to face challenges when we realize we aren’t alone.
- Take care of yourself and take breaks | You’ve probably heard the flying quote, “Attend to your own mask before your child’s.” This is especially true for parents of children with autism, as we tend to deal with more challenges than most. Never feel guilty about taking time to recharge and refuel yourself. The goal is to refill what’s been depleted and every little bit helps, in whatever form self-care may look like for you. Take breaks when you can and try to focus on things other than autism – it’s one element of your life, not your entire identity. A happier, more patient you is beneficial to your child’s progress. If you have a significant other and/or other children, be sure to make special efforts to spend time alone together with them, too! Sustaining your other relationships (aside from the “parent to child with autism” role) is important.
- Keep an open mind and be honest with yourself | Be willing to try different techniques, therapies, supplements, medications, diets, schedules, etc. If there is an area of your child’s daily life that isn’t working optimally, try something different. Ask for recommendations from your social base. If a new technique doesn’t work, don’t label it as a failure, but rather, chalk it up to an experiment, and never stop trying! Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions come with parenting a child with autism and work to find coping mechanisms. Accept that this is your normal now, acknowledge that you will struggle, don’t put unrealistic demands on yourself, and adjust as best you can.
- Focus on the good | Dwelling on negativity never does any good, so take time each day to list all the good things that happened – you can list them mentally, write them down, or verbalize them to someone else. There are no goals or magic numbers; just simply acknowledge any positive autism-related events that happened and start fresh the next day. It can only help to make regular deposits into your Positivity Account!
- Be confident, be patient, and choose your battles | Parenting can be exhausting, especially when your child has special needs. Recognize that there will be good days and bad days, often with no rhyme nor reason. Keep loosely structured guidelines in mind, utilizing techniques that typically work best for your child, but expect to deviate if necessary and have a backup plan (or two), and don’t expect instant miracles. Schedules are important, especially for our children who are Autistic, but don’t be afraid to change them on the fly as needed. Sometimes we may feel there is no answer, and that is okay, too. Don’t place blame on yourself for every challenge that arises. Ultimately, our goal as parents is to keep our children safe and allow them to thrive. Set realistic goals by striving to meet them most of the time, allowing for modifications, and conceding to the fact that sometimes, despite our best efforts, we can’t control the outcome. All we can control is how we interact with our child and the people around us.
- Be kind to yourself | It can be overwhelming caring for a child with autism. Even with a good support system in place, it’s stressful. Acknowledge the positive impact your efforts have on your child. Take a moment each day to appreciate the work you’re doing, and give yourself grace often.
About the Author
Christina Floyd is currently a stay-at-home Mom and a longtime unpublished author. She has been happily married to her husband for 20 years and together they have three sons, aged 18, 15, and 11, with whom she enjoys spending her free time. Her entry into Autism-related writing emanated from her youngest son’s Autism diagnosis at the age of two. She previously studied Early Childhood Education and Business Administration at Villa Julie College in Maryland and worked primarily as an Executive Assistant.