Tips for Parenting a Child With Autism
2. Get a Strong Social Network
Parenting a child with any chronic illness is emotional; it affects every part of your being. But the day-to-day care of children with autism is especially stressful because of the lack of essential social interaction and communication between the child and adult. Making sure your child gets the help he needs can also pose a challenge, depending on whether quality support services are available in your area. At the same time, you are likely to have ongoing worries about your child's prognosis and long-term well-being. For all these reasons, you need to find strong social support for yourself, as well as for your child.
Gathering your support network involves knowing ahead of time whom you can call for different types of support, even for emergencies, including:
- Emotional: A close friend or family member who is a confidant and whom you trust with your most personal feelings and concerns
- Social: A friend or colleague you enjoy being with and who helps you survive disappointments and shares your victories
- Informational: Your child's doctor, teachers, therapists, or other caregivers you can ask for advice on major decisions regarding his or her treatment
- Practical: A neighbor or close friend who will help you out in a pinch.
In addition to these different types of support, you can seek out local groups and parent network organizations for families of children with autism. Ask your doctor or child developmental specialist for referrals. Join online chat groups for parents of children with autism.
The more you know about autism and the stronger your support network, the more empowered you will be to live confidently, knowing that your child can get the help he or she deserves.
3. Teach Your Family About Autism
Many moms of kids with autism talk about feeling isolated. Once a child is diagnosed, moms often find that family members stop asking about the child or the child is left out of birthday parties or other family gatherings.
Sometimes spouses and other children admit to feeling stressed, lonely, even angry, as all attention is focused on the child with autism. While these feelings are natural, you can help your family members cope by educating them about autism and the child's specific needs.
Training family members about autism and how to effectively manage the symptoms has been shown to reduce family stress and improve the functioning of the child with autism. Some families will need more outside assistance than others, depending on their internal functioning, established support systems, and financial situation.
In addition, plan outings with other families who have a child with autism. There are many families who share your concerns and daily challenges. Talking openly with these families can give you new insight and better ways of coping. Local and national groups can help connect families and provide much-needed sources of information. Most health professionals can recommend some of these organizations.