Raising a child with ASD can place enormous stress on family life. Parents may be overwhelmed by the physical, emotional and financial demands of meeting their child’s therapeutic and academic challenges, while managing difficult or disruptive behaviors. Many parents must also juggle the needs of other children, a marriage, a career, and an active household. Successful family management strategies are the keys to a loving and satisfying home life.
Coming To Terms With Autism As A Family
Parents must recognize the strengths and needs of the child with ASD, and acknowledge that areas of relative weakness reflect only the child’s functioning at a moment in time, not for their entire life. At this stage parents will also benefit from education and support until they have a comfortable understanding of ASD.
Parents may require support to establish a family dynamic and home environment that does not revolve solely around the needs of the child with ASD.
Parents may need guidance in identifying the values that define their family and home life, and in recognizing that neither they nor their family are defined by ASD.
Nurturing Parents, Their Marriage, And Their Children
As primary caregivers, parents must make their own physical and emotional health and well being a true priority. Parents may benefit from direction in identifying effective strategies for managing powerful feelings sadness and anxiety, and in implementing these strategies with frequency and confidence.
Strengthening communication between spouses through practices such as active listening, the use of “I Statements,” and reflective conversation can be a critical component of a thriving marriage and family environment.
Guiding parents on the use of conflict resolution skills, adopting a team approach, actively acknowledging their spouse’s contributions to the family and dedicating time to focus on friendship and intimacy will improve the marital relationship and overall family life
Parents may benefit from learning strategies to explain ASD to their other children, and in identifying opportunities for children to interact with their sibling with ASD in a positive way. Assisting parents in identifying opportunities for children to interact with their sibling with ASD in a positive way
Families may require training in the creation and facilitation of a weekly family meeting schedule in which siblings can express feelings and concerns, and all family members can discuss issues relating to the household.
Sometimes parents can become so bogged down with the challenges of being the case manager, care provider, therapist, and behavior modification specialist for a child whose ability to give back is limited. Creative visualization and other exercises help parents to tap into their deep and unconditional love and appreciation for their child with ASD.
Creating And Implementing A Parenting Plan
Parents and a professional collaborative to design a plan that provides clear structure, rules, discipline, behavior management strategies, and include opportunities for parents and children to share quality time with one another.
The successful plan will break down and distribute chores and household responsibilities, among family members, including the child with ASD. The implementation of the plan may involve the need for a behavior modification program to enable the child with ASD to perform assigned tasks successfully. This is critical both to the child’s self-esteem and sense of independence, as well to alleviate the feeling among siblings that the child with ASD is not held accountable for their actions, which can lead to anger and resentment.
The plan will directly outline the family’s schedule, and provide clarity for how to respond to behavioral and other challenges that arise.