Emotional Support For Parents Of Children On The Autism Spectrum

Photo of back view of female parent and two children looking over fence to sunset across sea
Image credit: photo by Marco Ceschi on Unsplash.

Different but not less.

Temple Grandin,(famous animal researcher, author, and autism activist).

Discovering that your child is on the autism spectrum can be devastating. As parents, besides feeling sadness and fear, we may feel a lot of anger and resentment towards the child.

All of these feelings are natural. It takes a lot of additional time and energy to help our autistic child, and this can lead to anger and frustration on our part. We then may feel guilty for having that anger, thinking, “How can I feel this way?”

We might also start wondering what we did or could have done differently to change an outcome, causing more guilt. 

And, because of the extra time and energy that an autism spectrum child needs, often partners and other siblings receive less attention. Probably one of the most challenging areas for a parent is finding a way to find time for partners, other children, and ourselves. 

It is not uncommon for the lack of time to create conflict with a partner, too. And, if mom happens to be the primary care giver, she often gives up her work or career to stay home and prioritize the needs of her child. And this creates a whole host of other issues and feelings. 

Emotional energy can also be at a low ebb. Navigating school systems and other social systems in order to get services that the child needs is physically and emotionally tiring.

And then, patience can be really tested by our children. We are trying to not only deal with our own feelings, but simultaneously with the behavior of our child. This is tough with any child, but with a child with special needs, it is even more complex. 

So what are some things that you can do?

Take Care Of Your Own Emotional Needs First

If you have not properly grieved yet over what may seem like a loss, then take some time to do that. Really allow yourself to feel the emotion – whatever that may be (anger, sadness). Take time to sink into that feeling and express it, either out loud to yourself or on paper.

Capitalize On Your Child's Uniqueness

Sarita Freedman, PhD and autism expert, tells us that we can discover what it is about your child that is unique and wonderful, and then try to incorporate these things when playing or choosing activities. Let your child who is there before you be your guide – not the child you might have wished for. (Sage advice for any parent!)

Find additional support and guidance in my article: Emotional Impact On Parents Of Children With Autism Or Aspergers.

My wish for you today is that you are able to see the wonder in all children.

Kathleen Dwyer-Blair, LCSW, BCD, Director.

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