The shock of finding out your child has autism is life-changing for most parents. But new findings show parents can fare well emotionally and still have a strong bond with their child.
Studies into the coping skills of mothers of children with autism confirm that they are more likely to report "poor or fair" emotional and mental health than other moms, but they are also more likely to show remarkable strengths.
Autism Spectrum Disorders
The forms of autism are thought to overlap considerably. But the fact that
there is wide variation in symptoms among children with autism led to the
concept of autism spectrum disorder.
Autism seems to be on the rise, and autism spectrum disorders affect between
two and six children out of every 1,000 in the U.S. It's unclear, though,
whether the growing incidence of autism represents a real increase or just
Early diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder is important. That's because
detection leads to treatment, and with early treatment, a child with autism can
gain improved language and social skills.
These findings, published in the journal Pediatrics, come from a nationally representative survey of almost 62,000 mothers of school-aged children, including 364 mothers of children with autism. Researchers concluded that moms of children with autism were just as likely as other moms to report having a close relationship with their child and five times as likely to do so as mothers of children who had other developmental problems (not including autism).
Autism and other pervasive developmental disorders (or PDD) typically begin before age 3. They are a complex group of developmental disabilities marked by great difficulty in social interaction and communication. Difficulties on the spectrum range from mild to severe.
If your child has autism, you know how this developmental disorder can disrupt every part of your life -- your relationships, physical and emotional health, and career aspirations. But there is hope and help. Consider the following strategies as you tackle the special challenges and receive the unique joys of parenting a child with autism.
1. Learn All You Can About Autism
You can't "catch" autism. You either have it or you don't. And today, about one in 68 children has been diagnosed with autism or an autism spectrum disorder (also called ASD), which encompasses several related disorders, such as Asperger's syndrome. They are all complex developmental disabilities that affect the development of a child's social skills, communication skills, and behavior.
Autism is usually detected during a child's formative years, so experts know that early diagnosis, intervention, and treatment are the keys to helping young children with autism develop to their full potential. The primary goal of autism treatment is to improve the overall ability of the child to function.
Because autism symptoms and behaviors often change over time, treatment strategies are tailored to the child's needs and available family resources. In general, however, children with autism respond best to highly structured and specialized treatment. A program that addresses helping parents and improving communication, social, behavioral, adaptive, and learning aspects of a child's life will be most successful.
Talk to your doctor about the best autism treatments and goals for educational services, so you and your child can take advantage of all available resources. Read all you can on autism so you understand the symptoms and behaviors and the differences in medications or alternative therapies. Communicate with other professionals and parents and learn from those who've crossed this bridge before you -- as they share insights into common autism concerns. In addition, become very familiar with public policies so you can be your child's advocate in gaining the best education and care possible. Make sure, for example, that plans (504 or IEP) are in place for your child to receive therapies at school.