Rebuilding And Strengthening Marriages Amidst Child’s Autism Disorder

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For involved parents of an autistic child, autism can undoubtedly put a toll on a marriage; therefore, it is essential that couples are aware of how to rebuild and strengthen their bond while efficiently taking care of their child with autism.

The Statistics

Even without the existence of autism within the family, divorce has already been rampant in the United States with statistics revealing that around 50% of couples discontinue their marriages, the American Psychological Association cited. According to Jennifer Baxt, LMFT, LMHC, “Divorce is not something that should never be entered into lightly. It means an end to that relationship and the breakup of a family, which can be greatly traumatizing to the children of that marriage.”

Modern-day parents currently have more access to educational materials that can help them in widening the scope of knowledge about autism as a pediatric condition. Also, parents can easily seek the help of medical professionals who can provide insight and techniques on how to take care of an autistic child. All these, while keeping the marriage as steady as possible, can be quite challenging for couples.

Ways Of Maintaining Marriages

Don’t let your marriage become another divorce statistic. As committed couples and responsible parents, there are minor changes that you can incorporate into your daily routines that can help focus on your relationship and your family significantly.

  1. Consider Each Other As Teammates
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“Often, kids, teens and adults on the spectrum spend a lot of time trying to be “normal”, fighting sensory overload and overwhelm, fending off personal quirks, and trying so hard to “fit in”,socially and otherwise.” Karla Helbert, LPC, E-RYT, C-IAYT said. Therefore, when taking care of children with autism disorder, it is essential to keep in mind that it’s not a one-man or one-woman army; both couples have to be invested in making sure that their children are appropriately managed. After all, parents are also partners.

Both parents have significant roles in attending to their child’s needs. Neglecting to be part of the care process for your kid and just allowing your partner to carry all the weight can consequently reflect on your marriage. Sharing the load of being a caregiver while providing encouragement can strengthen the relationship, taking couples far in their union.

  1. Fight About It

Arguments within a relationship are typical and also considered healthy. Without discord, there can be no clarity that can lead to amends. Do not be afraid to air out your grievances to your better half and emphasize the things that upset you to find solutions and create positive changes within the household. Do not allow issues to fester and stew. However, always be careful in directing anger that is related to autism care towards your significant other. After the fight, make sure to patch things up and move on.

  1. Don’t Take Yourself For Granted

Looking after an autistic child can drain the life out of you. More so, it can wear down a once affectionate relationship. Since you are merely human, you are allowed to be exhausted and depleted of all sense of determination and patience either from your child’s condition or your better half. Having occasional “me” time can release stress and pressure from all your obligations as a parent and as a partner. Engage in relaxing and fun activities or go somewhere with friends to unwind.

  1. Sleep As Much As You Can

Another essential that must not be taken for granted is a good night’s sleep. “The amount of sleep you get and the quality of that sleep can actually affect your physical and mental health in ways you don’t anticipate,” says Julia Hogan, LCPC. Though it can be quite a challenge to get that much-needed snooze due to autism childcare, the reality is that having sufficient amount of sleep is beneficial for a couple’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Sleep is necessary to function and make decisions effectively. Create a schedule where you and your child can get enough sleep. It is during these moments of rest that you will realize troubles become light and you have a particular boost for your day ahead.

  1. Go On Dates
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For couples that are on a 24/7 care duty, going on dates to rekindle their bond can be tough because it seems as though there’s not enough time to become intimate and romantic. However, having time for each other is necessary to strengthen the connection. Parents who are dealing with children on the spectrum should always consider going on dates at least twice a month. You can ask other family members to take care of your child for a while. For the sake of your relationship, do activities together that you both enjoy, whether it’s trying out a new restaurant, watching movies, or karaoke nights.

Raising and nurturing a child with autism disorder can take a toll on any relationship especially if both couples are struggling due to insufficient knowledge about the condition and ineffective management skills. For this reason, autism can magnify small issues between couples that can affect their relationship significantly. Maintaining a healthy and trustworthy marriage is necessary for establishing a stable household that is reflective of the care that will be given to your autistic child.

The Challenging Nature Of Severe Autism

Medically speaking, severe autism is not a definite diagnosis. Severe autism is mainly used to describe an individual’s need and functioning level. Sometimes referred to as classic autism or profound autism, severe autism efficiently illustrates autistic people who possess the most prominent symptoms.

 

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Elaborating Severe Autism

Currently, the diagnostic manual (DSM-5) brought about the three categories of autism mainly focusing on the level and requirement of support. Level 3, under the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), can be labeled as severe autism that demands a considerable amount of support which would technically be a 24/7 kind of fostering and supervising.

“Different people with autism–including those diagnosed with Asperger’s or PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disability)–can have very different symptoms in varying degrees of severity.” –Karla Helbert, LPC, E-RYT, C-IAYT

Severe autism is more demanding and debilitating compared to other levels of autism due to the following reasons:

 

  • Individuals who are suffering from severe autism have all similar issues like that of the two spectrums, but a higher, much-complicated
  • Major symptoms are evident in people experiencing severe autism that other high-functioning autistic individuals rarely have.

 

Both of the reasons stated above creates a virtually tricky set-up for people struggling with severe autism and their families to function efficiently in normal settings that would range from going to schools, malls, parks, or even the doctor’s office.

 

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Behavioral Difficulties Affecting Individuals With Severe Autism

Research suggests that people who have severe autism usually present intense behaviors that are commonly caused by sensory overload, physical pain, or frustration. Due to these impromptu reactions, individuals who have severe autism may have difficulties with verbally communicating their needs, that would result in their caregivers or other people having a negative perception of their behaviors.

 

Unmanaged or unaddressed behaviors usually conveyed by people with severe autism can become destructive which makes even the closest members of the family feel threatened by the lack of control for such abrupt and dangerous behaviors.

 

What are the typical behavioral challenges that are exhibited by people with severe autism?

 

  1. Aggression

“People with ASD can have problems controlling their aggression and says it is not uncommon for these clients, sometimes including adults, to pull her hair or scratch her arms.” Stephanie Smigiel, LPC said. Usually perceived as anti-social behavior, aggression committed by people with severe autism might be relatively uncommon but is undoubtedly an alarming symptom. Aggressive practices are not limited to kicking, hitting, or biting other people. People with severe autism may also manifest inappropriate acts like door banging, fecal smearing, which necessitates an effective and immediate response.

 

  1. Self-Injury

Self-injury is an act that is common for all levels of ASD; however extreme behaviors like head-banging due to frustration or anger, or consuming non-edible items, are more likely displayed by those who have severe autism.

 

  1. Straying

Another distinct characteristic of people with severe autism that renders much difficulty in dealing with is straying or wandering around for no apparent reason. Compared to high-functioning autistic people, severely autistic individuals don’t have the appropriate tools to eloquently communicate with responders, posing a more precarious situation for the person. Due to the likelihood of straying happening, the majority of families with a member who has severe autism equip the person with alarms, personalized locks, and tools for proper identification to ensure their safety.

 

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“From my perspective, it’s one of the hardest things to deal with because, particularly if they’ve got young children — they’re struggling, they’re really struggling with behaviours.”  Jo White, a therapist said. While there are currently no specific treatments that can relieve someone of his or her condition, there is a wide variety of options aimed at addressing particular symptoms of the disorder. If your children are showing signs of autism and you would want to diagnose them adequately, consulting a medical professional is advised.

 

 

Environmental Hazards That May Be Linked To Autism

The causes of autism are still not fully understood, but experts generally agree that environmental factors play a role. While genetics influence the chances of developing autism, exposure to certain chemicals early in life may also contribute towards this developmental disorder.

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Given that scientists need to do more research on what causes autism, the exact link between certain chemicals and autism is still unclear. However, reducing your child’s exposure to these chemicals is always recommended. These substances are generally toxic to the nervous system and other parts of the body. By taking some simple steps, you can drastically reduce the amounts of these toxins that you and your family receive.

Pesticides

Many food items, such as produce, may contain significant amounts of pesticides on their surfaces. The agriculture industry uses pesticides to avoid crop damage from insects and other animals, preventing product losses. Many of these chemicals are designed to linger so that doses don’t need to be applied as often. Unfortunately, this design also allows these chemicals to resist degradation from natural processes, allowing them to travel far and wide.

Unborn children and babies are susceptible to the neurotoxic effects of pesticides. Left unabated, exposure can lead to neurological defects and poor development. A study found that pregnant women living within 2 kilometers from a sprayed field were up to 16% more likely to have a child with autism.

Fortunately, you can reduce pesticide exposure by rinsing your vegetables thoroughly with clean water. Better yet, you can buy from organic vendors and other sources that do not use pesticides.

Heavy Metals

Mercury and lead are potent agents that can harm brain cells. The body mistakes them as essential minerals like calcium. Hence, they can go inside vital organs like the brain, where they proceed to wreak havoc. Effects include poor language development and impaired emotion regulation, which are hallmarks of autism.

Mercury tends to bioaccumulate in animals such as fish because their organs can’t remove them effectively. When we eat contaminated fish, mercury can slowly build up inside our bodies and reach dangerous levels.

Lead was once a common ingredient of paints, so old buildings tend to have large amounts of this metal. As the paint flakes off and disintegrates into dust, the particles can be inhaled or ingested by young children.

To avoid exposure, it’s a good idea to limit the consumption of high-risk fish such as shark or tuna. You should also have old paints replaced or move out of aging residences.

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Plastic Additives

Chemicals such as bisphenol A and phthalates are used to modify the properties of plastics, making them more durable and easy to manufacture. However, these substances can block the function of naturally occurring hormones in the body. Their most common effects include abnormalities in reproductive development, but they may also be significant in the development of autism.

To reduce exposure, check the type of plastic that you use around your children. If they have recycling codes 3, 4, or 7, you should probably stay away from them. Better yet, use products that guarantee to be free of phthalates and bisphenol A. Reducing consumption of packaged and processed food is also a good idea.

By being wary of these environmental hazards, you may better prevent your child from developing autism. What’s sure is that your child will have a healthier life.

Benefits Of Counseling For Parents With Autistic Children

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Fostering an autistic child is both challenging and rewarding.

Honestly, there is no secret recipe or special powers required to be successful in raising a child who falls on the autism spectrum. However, there is a specific way to help manage the symptoms, provide further understanding, and accumulate appropriate skills to navigate around the challenging world of autistic childcare, and it’s called counseling.

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Helping Your Child With Autism Cope With Night Terrors

It’s normal for children to have nightmares once in a while. However, for kids who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), communication difficulties, and sensory dysfunction distress the child more from all these night terrors. Studies state that around 60% of children with ASD have trouble sleeping due to this problem.

While you cannot eliminate nightmares as a parent, you can help your child cope with the stress they experience.

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Understand The Causes Of Nightmares

Uncovering the primary causes of nightmares of those with ASD has not yet been successful. However, experts have pinpointed several factors which might increase the risk of experiencing these situations. Some of these include the following:

  • Scary movies, TV shows, or stories
  • Irregular sleep routine or deprivation of sleep
  • Significant and sudden changes at home or school
  • Stressful situations
  • A fever
  • Medications for ASD

“Autism tends to shine a bright light on whatever issues were already there.” Janeen Herskovitz, MA, LMHC said. As a parent, you need to have an idea of what contributes to your child’s night terrors. Once you have determined what these are, create a plan on how you can lower your child’s exposure to these problems.

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Set A Proper Stage For Sleeping

Staci Lee Schnell, MS, CS, LMFT once said, “Sleep helps your brain work properly. While you’re sleeping, your brain processes complex stimuli.” Therefore, you should establish a pre-sleeping routine for your child to follow. First, set a regular timeslot for them to lie on their bed. Make sure that they have at least 10 hours of sleep every day. Explain to them that those who sleep late are more likely to experience nightmares. Second, impose a rule that all electronic gadgets should be turned off at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Do this is to ensure that they don’t produce a sleep-inducing hormone called melatonin.

Lastly, prepare a calming activity for them to help relax their mind and body. You may opt to play a board game, read a story, go outside to look at the stars, or take a bath.

Conquer The Darkness

There are two ways for your child to conquer darkness. The first strategy is to dash your child’s room with a small amount of light. You can either install a dimmer in the bedroom or turn on the nightlights until he or she falls asleep. As suggested also in an article about toys for girls in Family Hype website, you can also let your child keep his or her favorite toy or blanket to help him, or her settle down.

Seek Outside Help

It is also advisable for you to seek outside help, primarily if these night terrors are disrupting your child’s waking life. The best form of therapy for those with ASD is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). In here, the therapist will teach techniques on how the child can transform these scary thoughts into positive images. The therapist will also guide him or her in ways to address the anxiety brought about by these nightmares.

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“Autism is a result of neurological differences in the structure of the brain that distinguish it from what we call the neurotypical brain. It is not mental illness or a personality disorder.” Sarah Swenson, MA, LMHC said. So to find the best therapist for your child, you may opt to ask the help of your pediatrician or check in with an ASD local support group for parents.

While we cannot prevent night terrors from happening, there are various ways for parents to provide comfort to children to reduce the frequency of nightmares. You only have to test all of these techniques and find the best ones which work for your child.

How Children With Autism Benefit From Speech Therapy

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Almost everyone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is advised to take speech therapy. The reason for this is that many children with ASD have compromised or limited speech and have a hard time forming words and sentences. At the same time, they also confront major non-verbal communication problems such as maintaining eye contact and playing with other people. For these reasons, speech therapy has many benefits for children with autism.

“Traditionally, intervention for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has focused upon reducing interfering behavior and teaching language, academic and self-help skills.” –Marlene Driscoll, MA, LMFT

Develops The Ability To Express Their Needs

These children sometimes have a hard time expressing both their want and needs. Sometimes, they do not learn spoken language bit by bit; instead, they do it in “chunks.” For example, they repeat these long chunks of sentences from their favorite TV shows and stories without fully understanding what these mean. Experts call this disorder echolalia.

With the help of speech therapy, they learn how to communicate verbally and non-verbally with other people and exchange ideas with their peers properly. It is crucial in building relationships not only in the comforts of their home but also outside of it.

Improves Grammar

Some children with ASD have a difficult time applying correct grammar even if it’s taught both in school and at home. The most common grammar mistake they do is referring to themselves in the third person. For example, instead of saying, “I want to eat cereals,” they’ll say, “John wants cereals.” With this in mind, speech therapists target this skill and guide them into correcting these grammar mistakes.

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Helps Them Understand What Others Say To Them

One of the difficulties of having ASD is the inability to comprehend both verbal and nonverbal communication that other people try to tell you. Speech therapy teaches them to recognize cues such as facial expressions and body languages and translate these to understandable messages. Speech therapy also gives them the capability to initiate individual and group communication without having to wait for others to do so.

“It is painful and difficult to identify, because so many neurotypical partners see these as problems existing within in themselves, rather than as their reactions to confusion, to feeling systematically ignored, or to feeling not heard for many years.” –Sarah Swenson, MA, LMHC

Assists Their Articulation Skills

Aside from improving their comprehension, speech therapy also targets the improvement of the children’s articulation skills. Articulation refers to the physical movement of the lips, palate, tongue, and jaw. All of these parts should be able to coordinate correctly to produce speech sounds.

However, it is challenging to work these parts together in the presence of ASD. Therefore, speech therapists guide the child to produce sound patterns or speech sounds to improve his or her overall speech intelligibility.

Addresses Speech Fluency

Children with ASD experience various communication disorders like interjections, prolongations, and repetitions. Displaying these behaviors tends to lower their self-confidence. With the help of speech therapy for autism, the patients learn strategies on how to increase their speech fluency and control their stutters.

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“Often, kids, teens and adults on the spectrum spend a lot of time trying to be “normal”, fighting sensory overload and overwhelm, fending off personal quirks, and trying so hard to “fit in”,socially and otherwise.” Karla Helbert, LPC, E-RYT, C-IAYT said. Just like other medical diagnoses, the earlier you detect and treat speech problems, the higher the chances of addressing them thoroughly. Usually, children utter their first words around their 18th month and form basic phrases and sentences on their 24th month. It means that autism is detectable at the age of 3. Therefore, it is recommended to start therapy early for it to be more beneficial and useful for children with autism.