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How To Cope With Autism As A Parent

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Expose Your Child To Novel Situations

Autism Parent Training – How you cope emotionally with the diagnosis

For some children with autism, variability and changes in the environment may be anxiety-provoking. When I talk about exposing your child to these things that may be anxiety provoking, it is important to remember to start very small and gradually increase the expectation. For example, one five-year-old boy that I work with would whine and fall to the floor if the toy he was playing with was not played within a particular way. In order to help teach him to become more flexible, I would intermittently change the way he was playing with the toy for a second and then give him back control of the toy. Over time, he began to tolerate changes in how the toy was manipulated and even began to play with it in different ways himself. The key was that I exposed him to novel ways to play with things in a safe way that was not too demanding.

Protective Factors Against Parenting Stress

The characteristics of the child with ASD have been identified as a possible source of stress for families. However, some families, despite the difficulties, have still managed to achieve successful psychological adaptation. In particular, the analysis of the dynamics in families with chronic stressors requires complex models such as the Double ABCX Model of family stress and adaptation . This model is able to discriminate between balanced and imbalanced families faced with chronic tension, obtaining a clearer picture of the differences.

Coping strategies refer to a group of behavioral or cognitive efforts aimed at reducing stress levels, and they are considered a tool parents can use to adapt to the stressors associated with raising a child with ASD. Coping strategies in studies with parents of children with ASD have generally been evaluated with the Ways of Coping Questionnaire or the Coping Orientation to Problems Experienced . Despite the different classifications proposed, two blocks of coping strategies have been emphasized: problem-focused coping strategies, which aim to solve the problem or do something to actively change ones perception of a stressor , and emotion-focused coping strategies, which aim to reduce or manage the feelings of distress .

How Do Parents Feel

Parents of children with autism sometimes describe feeling overwhelmed, guilty, confused, angry, or depressed.

Frustration is a common emotion. They may feel frustrated when their child is clumsy, unresponsive, angry, or disregarding of others. Frustration can also arise when other people do not understand how ASD affects a child, and when they judge both the child and the parent unfairly.

Parents are often anxious, not only about today, but also about how the child will cope in future.

Guilty feelings can arise if the parents, wrongly, blame themselves for the disorder, when they lose their temper, or when they feel that they are not doing things right.

Anger can occur if a parent feels that they are not getting help, say, from the other parent, from family, or from support groups. They may become angry with the child when the childs behavior is hard to handle.

Grief and sadness are also common reactions. When parents first learn that their child will not be able to experience life as other children do, there may be a sense of loss, both of the childs future and of the parents own hopes and expectations.

Parenting can be stressful, and taking care of a child with special needs is often more so. Negative emotions are normal. Parents should try to keep these feeling in perspective and to avoid blaming themselves unnecessarily. If the stress becomes too much, speaking to a counselor may help.

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Treatment For Children With Autism

Child development experts agree that a child with autism should receive treatment as soon after diagnosis as possible. There is no cure for autism, but early intervention using skills-training and behavior modification can yield excellent results. This type of educational and behavioral treatment tackles autism symptoms — impaired social interaction, communication problems, and repetitive behaviors. It can also boost the chances of a child with child autism being able to go to school and participate in typical activities.

Other treatment options for children with autism include:

  • Medication. Doctors sometimes prescribe it for children with autism if they have other symptoms, including depression, anxiety, seizures, or hyperactivity.
  • Alternative therapies. These might include vitamin treatments, changes in diet, and a procedure called “chelation” that attempts to remove heavy metals from the blood. Although many parents insist these types of treatment work, researchers have not scientifically proven them effective for children with autism, either for symptoms or long-term outcomes. Chelation, in particular, is dangerous and should be avoided. Deaths have been associated with this type of therapy. You should always discuss the safety and effectiveness of any alternative treatments with your doctor before trying them.

Establish And Stick To Routines

How parents can help their children with autism to cope ...

Few things contribute to autism tantrums like disorganization and disarray. Children with autism tend to do better when they have a structured routine or schedule, and it helps them apply what theyve learned in one place to other places.

Most children with autism crave consistency, and as a parent, you can provide that: Enforce a strict bedtime and wake-up time, try to eat meals at the same times every day, set entertainment hours at home, and try to do things in a certain order. For example, when your kid arrives home from school, provide an after-school snack, start and finish homework, and then allow playtime for an hour.

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Find Other Parents Who Will Understand And Support You

“It always has been invaluable to have other parents who are going through the same thing as you are, to call them up and say I cant believe this is happening to me today. Because to the rest of the community, the things that happen to us, theyre really not the norm.” Ruth Singer Strunck, the mom of two young adults with autism

Don’t Change Your Attitude

When you learn your friend’s child is autistic, treat that knowledge as a revelation rather than a shock. It sheds new light on the child’s temperament, revealing why he behaves the way he does so you can learn to cope with his behavior in ways you couldn’t before. His diagnosis doesn’t mean he’s different now than before you heard about it. The onus is on you to brush up on methods to deal with the child. Every ASD youngster has his or her quirks, the same as other kids, but once you understand the cause, you’ll be able to help more.

The simple way to do this is to ask the parents. Since you have already learned the basics on ASD, discretely ask intelligent questions without causing offense.

  • Pose questions about the child’s treatment, dietary habits, and improvements.
  • Learn his likes and dislikes in more detail than before and ask if there are things you should avoid, but don’t treat him as a medical case.
  • Make note of small, encouraging improvements including the usual childhood milestones, such as changing his baby teeth.
  • Remember he and his family are still the likeable people you knew before the diagnosis.

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Im Not Someone To Pity Simply Because My Child Has Autism

Autistic children are writing books, making films, creating blogs, and making all sorts of other groundbreaking achievements. Yet, when a parent tells someone their child is autistic, they are usually met with an unnecessary apology or look of pity. Autism is not something to be pitied, and our societys outlook should change to reflect that.

Tip : Create A Personalized Autism Treatment Plan

How Parents Can Cope After an Autism Diagnosis

With so many different treatments available, it can be tough to figure out which approach is right for your child. Making things more complicated, you may hear different or even conflicting recommendations from parents, teachers, and doctors.

When putting together a treatment plan for your child, keep in mind that there is no single treatment that works for everyone. Each person on the autism spectrum is unique, with different strengths and weaknesses.

Your childs treatment should be tailored according to their individual needs. You know your child best, so its up to you to make sure those needs are being met. You can do that by asking yourself the following questions:

What are my childs strengths and their weaknesses?

What behaviors are causing the most problems? What important skills is my child lacking?

How does my child learn best through seeing, listening, or doing?

What does my child enjoy and how can those activities be used in treatment and to bolster learning?

Finally, keep in mind that no matter what treatment plan is chosen, your involvement is vital to success. You can help your child get the most out of treatment by working hand-in-hand with the treatment team and following through with the therapy at home.

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Common Struggles Faced By Parents Of Autistic Children

One of the biggest challenges for autism moms is that, unless youve lived it, you cannot possibly understand what parents of autistic children experience on a daily basis. Also? No 2 individuals with autism are the same, so the struggles one family has may be completely different than those another family faces. With that said, there are certain struggles most autism moms can relate to, including:

  • Chronic exhaustion
  • Receiving unsolicited advice from others
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Not having enough time to focus on your childs siblings
  • Worrying about the future

Relieving Parental Stress And Depression: How Helping Parents Helps Children

Connie Anderson, Ph.D.

Date First Published: December 14, 2007Date Last Revised: August 26, 2010

It is not easy to be the parent of a child on the autism spectrum. There are joyous moments, but there is no denying the challenges parents face, and the toll these take. Parents worry themselves sick, fight for services, sacrifice careers, sink into debt, and rage at the injustice of it all. Parents grieve.

Researchers have tried to understand the strain involved, and its effects. They have studied depression and anxiety, as well as stress and coping, in the parents of children with disabilities. If we can understand what stresses have the most negative impact on families, we can move to address them. If we can figure out what psychiatric issues run in families, we can be ready to intervene sooner rather than later, helping both parents and children at risk to function better and lead more satisfying lives.

Also Check: How To Detect Autism In 5 Year Olds

How To Strengthen Your Co

How can parents of children with autism strengthen their co-parenting relationship? Psychologist Linda Raffaele Mendez and her colleagues designed a co-parenting training program that aimed to promote resilience in families of children with autism. In a recent study, they evaluated their four-week Together We Are Stronger group program with seven couples in the United States. According to their preliminary findings, parents who participated in the program had more cohesion in their relationship, better co-parenting, and more hope at the end of the program compared to the start.

Here are some recommendations from the program to help parents be stronger together.

1. Reflect on your family history and values. Co-parents can work together to think about what exactly your family values are and how they are tied to your personal and family history. Once youve identified your shared values, you can become better aware of what you want to instill in your children and how you will work together to do that. This reflection can consider your childrens special needs so you can adapt your approach for your children to best embrace these values.

You can also create a family time capsule with mementos and symbols of your most cherished values that will maintain the connection between you and your future family members. With a clear understanding of these values, co-parents can write a family mission statement as a way of summarizing this reflection and discussion.

Follow Your Babys Lead

How to Cope When Your Child Gets an Autism Diagnosis: A ...

You may have a preconceived notion of what playtime looks like , but observe what makes your baby happy and engage them with that. Let them show you what theyre interested in, says Dr. Dawson. If theyre playing with a drink coaster or a paper-towel roll, dont try to get them to read a bookget down on the floor and marvel at the coaster with them. For a baby who might be developing autism, you want to enter their world and make it fun, says Dr. Dawson. Letting them direct things helps you make sure they enjoy playtime.

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This Is A Great Time To Parent A Child With Autism

“I am grateful that we live in the times that we do. So much new information has been discovered about autism. We live in the age of the internet and I can connect with another autism mom who lives several states or even countries over and talk about our shared experiences. I am grateful to have things like iPads that not only help my son communicate but also gives us a chance to share a moment while watching one of his favorite YouTube clips. A tip of my cap to the families that went before us. They really helped pave the way for the benefits my son has now. I hope I can do the same for the ones coming behind us.”

Eileen Shaklee, Wall, New Jersey

How To Handle Your Child’s Autism Diagnosis

When your child is diagnosed on the autism spectrum, what should you do? How should you cope? Here are resources to help you become your child’s strongest advocate.

According to the Centers for Disease Control , autism affects 1 in 88 children, and hundreds of families are receiving news of an autism diagnosis every day. Autism is a developmental disability that significantly affects three areas: communication , social interaction, and behavior. It is a spectrum disorder, meaning it affects “each person in different ways and can range from very mild to severe,” the CDC notes.

Many autism and medical groups advocate for early intervention and intensive therapy to help achieve maximum progress and recovery for a child with autism. They also advise gathering a team of doctors to assess the best treatment. But when you’re sitting in an office hearing the word “autism,” the immediate days that follow can be overwhelming, and it can be difficult to figure out what comes next. What should parents do in those first few days and weeks after receiving the diagnosis? What treatment should they seek? How do they find good doctors? How should they cope and move forward? Here are practical and helpful ways parents can come to terms with the diagnosis and devise a plan of action.


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Please Be Patient With My Child

Children on the Autism Spectrum often have a slew of sensory issues and meltdowns in common. Because no one would expect a family with autistic children to stay home all hours of the day, these meltdowns often happen in stores, at parks, and in other public places. Parents of children on the Autism Spectrum simply want others to understand that these meltdowns are not brought on by bad behavior, and to please remain patient with both the parents and the child. Rolling your eyes or mumbling snide comments are not helpful. It will not change the immediate situation and can even add further stress to both parent and child.

Teach Breathing And Mindfulness

Helping Parents Cope with Autism Diagnosis

Using visuals and verbal prompts you can teach your child to focus on guided breathing when he or she is becoming uncomfortable. It is better to teach these kinds of skills before he/she starts to show anxious behavior and then, once it can be done well when calm, you can teach him/her to use it when experiencing something more uncomfortable. It is also a good idea to infuse short mindfulness activities into your childs daily routine. There are lots of resources online that are geared to teaching kids mindfulness. The key is to make sure that your child is able and willing to participate. These should not be very long when you first begin. Over time, as your child learns to sit and attend to a guided meditation, you can gradually increase how long he or she sits and do it on a given day. When I first started doing this with my kids, it was for three minutes topsnow they ask to do a meditation and will sit for up to 15 minutes and attend to the guided meditation.

Also Check: Where To Get Autism Screening

Plan Ahead For Winter Travel:

Consistency and comfort are key here: if you plan to travel for the holidays, you know you can expect a certain level of chaos and new surroundings. Its more important than ever to have familiar items around your child. Have her favorite foods, toys, books, or comfort items with you, whether youre flying or driving. Use social stories and role playing to practice what he can expect in airports, in queues, and in the car.

How To Cope With An Autism Diagnosis: 10 Tips For Parents

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If you or someone you love has recently received an autism diagnosis, youre probably feeling a whole range of emotions, and you might not know what to do or where to start. While statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that 1 in 68 American children are born on the autism spectrum , there is no one known cause of autism. There are many different hypotheses and some of the current research is both fascinating and encouraging, but scientists can only agree on one explanation: autism is the result of a combination of genetic and environmental influences.

To make things even more frustrating, no two individuals with autism are the same. Symptoms vary greatly from one person to the next, and treatment plans need to be tailored to your individual childs abilities and needs. What works for one child might not work for another, and in the face of so many uncertainties and unknowns, parents of autistic children are often left feeling helpless, overwhelmed, and alone.

But there is hope.

The sooner you accept your childs autism diagnosis, the sooner you can let go of what could have been and start advocating for her, and this post was written to help you do exactly that.

Here are 9 tips to help parents cope with an autism diagnosis.

Read. There are also lots of books you can buy to educate yourself, your family, and your friends about autism. Weve rounded up some great picks to get you started.

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