Autism 204: Parent Training to Address Problem Behavior of Youth With Autism Spectrum Disorder(2017)

The Stress of Autism Caregiving

If you have a child with autism, you probably have stress. Here are some ideas to stay positive and de-stress your life.

By Marie Suszynski

Medically Reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD

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If you have a child with autism, you’re officially stressed out — no surprise there. But you may not realize what a large load you carry.

Research has shown that mothers of autistic children actually experience more general stress and stress specifically related to parenting than mothers of children with developmental delays.

Researchers at the University of Washington Autism Center, who conducted the study, say the higher stress levels are due to the tendency among children with autism to have behavioral problems: They’re not always able to follow rules, they have trouble with their speech, and they can be irritable and agitated.

Other studies have also shown that autism places more stress on families than other disabilities. So what can you do about it? Here are some ideas on how to de-stress.

Autism and Parenting: Take Time for Yourself

For many parents who work, their time on the job is their “break,” says Wendy Pulliam, coordinator and clinical supervisor in the social work and communications sciences and disorders program at Longwood University in Farmville, Va.

While most parents need a better break than going to work, getting rest and relaxation can be tricky because even subtle changes in routine and being exposed to a new caregiver can upset an autistic child, Pulliam says. Here’s how to handle it:

  • Keep your child at home.Autistic children do well when they stick to a routine, so it’s probably a better idea to have a babysitter come to your house than to bring your child to her home, Pulliam says.
  • Have the caregiver get to know your child.It’s best to involve someone who knows your child well and can follow your routine as closely as you do, such as family members or close friends. Have the babysitter spend the day with you and your child so she can do things the same way you do them, Pulliam says. In general, autistic children have trouble when their routine is broken, so doing something in the wrong order or offering a different type of food — even if it’s simply a different name brand — can throw off an autistic child for the rest of the day, Pulliam adds. Help your babysitter understand that, and be sure to point out all of the details of your routine.
  • Take advantage of school hours.If your autistic child is in school, take the opportunity to meet your spouse for lunch or plan to take a weekday off from work so the two of you can have quality time together without the kids.

Autism and Parenting: Small Steps Create Calm

The occasional night — or day — out helps, but there are also things you can do every day to have less stress.

  • Make a plan.Taking action can help you feel empowered, says Cathy Pratt, PhD, director of the Indiana Resource Center for Autism at Indiana University in Bloomington and chair of the board of the National Autism Society of America. “It needs to be thoughtful and informed action,” Pratt says. Taking the time to put a program together that will help your child with communication or other difficulties will make life go more smoothly and help you feel less stressed.
  • Surround yourself with support.Perhaps the only people who can truly relate to what you’re going through are other families who have children with autism, so seek out those families. You can find them in support groups through local chapters of the Autism Society of America, Developmental Disabilities offices, and online; go to to find support groups and services in your area.
  • Take care of yourself.You may feel guilty for stealing some time for yourself during the day, but you’ll probably find that you’ll better be able to support your children when you do. Make a point of exercising, practicing yoga, meditating, or writing in a journal.
  • Talk to a professional.If you’re finding yourself frazzled, counseling for yourself, you and your spouse, or your entire family may help.

Take a deep breath and vow to take at least a few steps to lower your stress level. You will be a better parent for it.

Video: Autism and the Stress of Morning Routines

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Date: 10.12.2018, 20:48 / Views: 43585