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Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

Moms of Autistic Kids Cope Well

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Special Challenges

The findings are not meant to minimize the challenges of parenting a child with autism, Montes says. But they do suggest that mothers with autistic kids may have something to teach moms of children dealing with similar developmental struggles.

“The [autism] moms reported being angry at their children less often, and they seemed to have much closer relationships with their children than mothers of children with other social skills deficits,” Montes says.

Adams tells WebMD that parenting a child with autism is more than a full-time job. Alison Singer agrees.

Singer’s soon-to-be 10-year-old daughter Jodie was diagnosed with autism at age 2 1/2.

Moms who work outside the home are often forced to quit their jobs to take care of their child’s needs, as both Adams and Singer did. Autism treatment programs can call for 40 hours a week or more of one-on-one behavioral intervention.

“I used to call myself the CEO of Jodie Inc., because managing her life was like running a very time-consuming business,” Singer tells WebMD. “I had to organize her therapy, hire the therapists, train the therapists, buy the supplies, and go to battle to get [insurance] coverage for her treatment.”

Adams, who lives with her son in Orange County, Calif., describes a similar scenario. In her book, A Real Boy: A True Story of Autism Early Intervention and Recovery, she says many women in her situation end up becoming what she calls “autism super mommies.”

“You take on all these roles. You become an expert on diet, on treatments, on all kinds of things, and you end up fighting battles all the time on your child’s behalf because the support systems, which are supposed to be in place to help, aren’t there.”

Special Joys

But both moms agree that the payoff comes from the special bond they have with their children and the joy they take in every hard-won developmental accomplishment.

“My plans included having kids, being a college professor, and writing novels, and then it all came apart,” Adams says. “But having my son made me a much more empathetic, totally realized human being. There is no question about it.”

Singer, who lives in Westchester, N.Y., recalls marveling recently as her daughter boarded the school bus by herself -- a task which used to terrify her.

“I started by walking her to the bus and then standing there until it was gone,” she says. “It took about two years until she was able to make the full trip from my front door, down the driveway, to the bus. As a mother I have learned to appreciate the things that I probably wouldn’t appreciate if I hadn’t seen my child work so hard to achieve them.”

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