“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.
- 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.