Dating is not always easy as shown in television and films. After all, media often promulgates stereotypes about different types of people and such are often wrong. This false information creates difficulty when it comes to actual dating: when people’s misconceptions take over their compassion and understanding. Something people often misunderstand is dating individuals with autism.
The short answer would be, no, you shouldn’t worry about dating a person with autism because just like anything, no person should ever be defined by the labels cast on them, nor should these labels be worrisome.
￼Starting a family and having a baby is a beautiful challenge. It provides you a new perspective on life, and reasons why you wake up every day. However, no matter how beautiful, it is also a big undertaking. Without reserve, being a parent is no easy feat.
“The autism diagnosis itself is often traumatic for parents. It can be a grueling process that may take up to a year or more, with multiple visits to several different professionals.” Janeen Herskovitz, MA, LMHC said. With that, parent or guardian collaboration is essential in keeping your bond strong while withstanding the difficulties of looking after your child with autism disorder.
Unfortunately, there are instances wherein psychological disorders like autism occurring within a family cause instability and discourse that could severely affect the relationship and eventually lead to divorce. Multiple studies have checked into this troubling issue, and yet their findings are usually contradicting.
However, what medical professionals do know is that autism is a rare disorder that induces stress not only for the parents but caregivers as well. Autism disorders start with a series of unusual events and then lead to inevitable changes that are difficult to deal with, which can then cause frustrations leading to persistent disagreements between parents.
While there are couples who are having trouble dealing with autism, there are those who have powered through all the difficulties by efficiently addressing and ironing out issues.
Autism Factors Affecting Marriage
Families are expected to endure adversities now and then. But when a family has a child with autism disorder, the stakes are higher, and the responsibilities seem doubled. Despite that, there are ways to be like the other couples who have weathered through the storm of staying together and becoming effective caregivers to their autistic child.
What are the reasons behind constant stress and how can you, as parents, be more efficient in overcoming these complications?
- The Acceptance
Taking care of children with autism is supposed to be a partnership between parents, which is why both are required to be extensively knowledgeable about the condition so it can be appropriately managed. But that’s not always the case.
Some families have children with autistic disorder who are unequipped when it comes to dealing with the condition due to some reason. Mostly, only the other half is the well-rounded, well-informed one who becomes the primary caregiver.
Usually, acceptance is one of the most challenging things to do. Online counseling, such as BetterHelp, is a proven way to help couples deal with the situation. Parents can go on therapy sessions with licensed counselors to assist them in handling their circumstances. Therapists can also educate parents on the condition of their child and how to manage it.
- The Sharing Of Roles And Responsibilities
While the other parent is designated as the caregiver, the other is either avoidant or is usually unaware of what the disorder is and how it is managed. Here lies the conflict because only one is knowledgeable enough to engage in activities or events that concern the autistic child. Some examples are:
- Talks to teachers about the kid’s school issues
- Meets with developmental pediatricians
- Shows up during evaluations
- Takes the results
Usually, the mothers are involved in providing initial care; they are the ones who become the advocates and researchers who learn the following about their children with autism:
- Therapeutic options
- Classroom and school alternatives
- Programs for special needs children
- Education law for special needs children
- Health insurance
- Camps and support groups
In the meantime, fathers who choose to sideline themselves from their children’s disorder rely heavily on their wife’s capacity to perform the majority of caregiving duties, thinking that since someone’s more capable and efficient, there is no need to be fully invested in their kids’ daily roundabouts. When this becomes the scenario, the conflict will eventually arise.
Relationship experts and therapists believe that as much as possible, both parents should be involved in providing care and assuming responsibility for their kid’s condition. Collaboration is a huge factor in making sure that the relationship does not suffer while partners take care of their child.
- The Reaction
Autism prevails differently in children; therefore parents’ reactions are vital in maintaining a healthier bond with each other and with their autistic kids. “Young people with autism are very good at “getting stuck” and being less flexible.” John Strang, Psy.D. said.
While some parents see various challenges as an opportunity to learn and grow as a couple and as guardians, there are those who are upset and completely overwhelmed. For couples to overcome their frustrations surrounding the condition, they must first understand that an autistic kid:
- may have ADHD
- may not be verbal in conveying messages
- may become noisy or silent
- may exhibit inappropriate or disturbing behaviors
- may become aggressive
- may have anxiety
Because autism presents differently in children, it will take a lot of imagination, perseverance, and energy to figure out how to appropriately engage with children who have autism disorder, and this process can be quite exhausting for the assigned caregiver.
While it is tempting for one parent to carry all the tasks and responsibilities in taking care of an autistic child and the other to surrender the role of a caregiver, it becomes an issue within the relationship due to the possibility of living separately even if they’re together. Time will come when partners find themselves at a crossroad with very little in common.
The Bottom Line
“There’s grief. There’s relief. There’s a whole range of emotions that go on there,” Jo White, a therapist said. Yes, managing an autistic child and assuming the role of a caregiver can be frightening and unsettling at first. But if couples are mutually accepting, understanding, and knowledgeable in taking on the responsibility of being parents and caregivers, the task of dealing with autism becomes lighter and even strengthens the bond of marriage.
Autistic kids do well with established schedules, which is why traveling to foreign places can bring about discomfort due to disrupted routines. Appropriate organizing and planning can aid in your child’s adjustment to a new environment and can be beneficial for the entire family as you journey to distant lands.
Autism And Traveling
Parents who have autistic kids find it hard to travel with their children especially if it would require long hours of flying or driving. Daunting as it may seem, voyaging into unfamiliar grounds is favorable to your kids since it will introduce them to a whole new dimension of sights, sounds, and wonders that cannot be achieved at home.
Due to the requirement of predictability with children within the spectrum, parents are somehow hesitant to go on vacations that would trigger stress and over-stimulation. For most caregivers, the experience of journeying with an autistic child can be quite overwhelming due to episodes of self-injurious, violent, or quirky behaviors exhibited in public that would result to rude and judgmental comments from other people. But according to Janeen Herskovitz, LMHC, “Just because a child has autism, doesn’t mean their life should be limited — it means they might need extra help or adaptations in order to do the same things that others do.”
Preparation Done Right
For those who are finding ways on how to take their autistic kids with the family on a meaningful, relaxing, and fun-filled journey, here are some of the things that you can do to have a pleasurable trip minus the trouble.
- Check Travel Destinations Suitable For The Disorder
Not all places are disability-friendly; some areas are just too distressing that it can add further apprehensiveness on the part of your child. For children with autism, vacations signify transition, and this could pose a challenging feat. Depending on how your child presents his or her autism, parents should research for vacation places that are unhurried and flexible, like the beach, whichever is ideal for your child. As Richard Shuster, PsyD said, “Staring at the ocean actually changes our brain waves’ frequency and puts us into a mild meditative state.”
Always consider what perks or distresses your child. While there are children with autism who are into amusement parks, there are those who are fond of hiking. One way to assure yourself that your child will enjoy the trip is to include him or her in the planning of activities and places to go. Make sure that your itinerary is adapted to the child’s attention span, interests, and ability to process information.
- Do Scheduling Earlier
By making proper arrangements ahead of time, you can create a more pleasant environment for your autistic child. Communicating with people at the place of your destination like the amusement park or the museum, restaurants, hotels, and most importantly, airlines will prompt all concerned parties about your child’s condition. Discuss with them what your requests are and what your child requires especially at specific accommodations.
Airlines and flight attendants that are informed ahead of time regarding the condition of your children will have time to adjust and be prepared in assisting with their needs. Some airlines are now more prepared for specific scenarios and situations that might occur when flying with autistic children.
- Produce Personal Identification
In general, traveling with a child that has a disability would require increasing the safety plan since children are susceptible to distractions, wandering around and easily fleeing from unsuspecting adults. The National Autism Association reported that wandering is the leading cause of stress with autistic children. Furthermore, children who move about aimlessly are commonly attracted to the sight of water and are unaware of the danger that it might cause; for this reason, drowning is a primary consequence of wandering and is the primary cause of mortality in children with an autism spectrum disorder.
As parents, do not forget to secure a necklace or medical bracelet for your child that has your names and contact details. Some other areas where you can place the information tag are shoelaces, zipper pulls, and pocket. You can also make your child wear personalized shirts that have printouts indicating their condition and your contact information.
- Don’t Forget The Essentials
In other words, do not forget reinforcements that can distract your child from the stress that would prompt tantrums and outbursts. Bring their favorite toys or comfort items that can easily soothe their behavior. Make sure that you have a checklist so that you don’t forget anything significant that would make your child’s travel more comfortable and less nerve-racking.
“There is no cure for autism, nor is there one single treatment for autism spectrum disorders. But there are ways to help minimize the symptoms of autism and to maximize learning.” –Karla Helbert, LPC, E-RYT, C-IAYT
Vacations with autistic children need not be complicated and arduous. Parents just have to know what to do and how to do the necessary preparations to make the trips as pleasant as possible.
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.
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.
- Consider Each Other As Teammates
“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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Go On Dates
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.
Getting less than a good night’s sleep usually precedes what is called a bad day. But for children with autism and their parents, this is just not a drowsy morning. Loss of sleep for these children means more severe symptoms of autism and lower intelligence scores when compared to children who slept more.
Stress is not unfamiliar when it comes to parenting, as all parents understand upon waking up to the cries of the baby in the middle of the night for the first time. As per the assumptions, this even becomes a capital “STRESS” when it comes to taking care of the needs of children with autism. Assumption or not, one simple truth persists.
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.
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.
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?
“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.
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.
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.
“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.