Parenting a child who is autistic may be one of the most fulfilling yet daunting things that some parents will ever go through. I know because I have been a therapist to one too many kids on the spectrum – and me being a parent of a 10-year-old daughter who is on the spectrum as well.
Many of the people I have helped and guided throughout my practice frequently asked me how I could do it as if I possess some magic weapon or special talent that they do not have. I, too, had my own path in therapy – as an individual in therapy – that enabled me the most and helped me learn the skills, I was required to have to go through this challenge. That personal journey was also the reason why I chose to be the therapist that I am today.
As parents to ASD children, we become proficient at investigating, seeking, and paying all the appropriate therapies for our kids, although we are also inclined to set aside our very own needs. To survive and thrive on this parenting path that we are now navigating, finding professional assistance may be beneficial at one point or another.
Below are some important ways that therapy can benefit parents with children who are on the spectrum.
Parenting Abilities. Parenting an ASD child can be very distinctive from parenting a typical child. Often, there are sensory problems to consider, medical interventions, therapies, safety issues to decide on, and educational choices to make, to name a few. Almost always, these kids also come with mental health conditions and self-management complications. Parents may become confused and tremendously overwhelmed when confronted with everything.
A therapist who is trained and experienced in providing the essentials of ASD families is crucial. This mental health professional can definitely assist parents in learning how to prioritize their needs and lessen the stress and anxiety related to overwhelm. When I talk to couples with ASD kids, I often remind them that an autism diagnosis does not destroy a relationship but rather their reaction to it could.
Keeping It Strong With Your Partner. Reports have been released that kids with autism have relatively higher marital conflict and divorce rates than typical kids. That definitely comes to no surprise, as problems and stressors are commonly far worse.
Autism spectrum disorder tends to place a vivid light on whatever matters were already existing. A therapist who is aware of the continuous stress that ASD places on the whole family can assist partners in navigating the challenges and other issues while keeping the bond with your partner strong.
Keep in mind, though, that this is not something that happens overnight. It’s a process that takes patience, time, and perseverance. However, the outcomes are worth the wait. I am certain that therapy saved more than half of my marriage.
Adapting To The Diagnosis. The ASD diagnosis itself is frequently devastating for us parents. It can become a demanding process that could take a year or even more, with several consultations with various professionals. Parents are usually confronted with multiple emotions in the entire process, including guilt, fear, extreme worry, and anxiety – and too much time waiting. Numerous parents are told that their kid is not actually on the spectrum, and then you hit the dead end with more queries and answers.
No matter what the result is, truly, the pain and grief are very real. Oftentimes, knowledge of the stages of grief and the acceptance that grief is recurring somehow help parents adapt. Each individual responds differently to grief, and the way one responds has something to do tremendously with what really occurred and whether or not they have handled it efficiently. An individual might require therapeutic management such as EMDR therapy or cognitive restructuring to overcome the pain and overwhelm of the unraveled diagnosis.
Stress Control. Stress plays a suggestive role in the emergence of disease. It literally causes sickness. For us to be healthy, we have to learn ways of controlling or regulating stress effectively. The everyday stress of an ASD parent is tremendous and persistent. A therapist can help by providing a supportive hand and ear, teaching self-care skills, and substantiating parenting efforts. Therapy aims to help a person go through a tough time or be utilized regularly during the parents’ journey. I have been helping several parents place my phone number on speed dial, and others have been in therapy routinely for years while their ASD child is growing up.
Most people agree that we won’t be able to hand an empty glass, that we must don our own oxygen masks to help other people. If you are like me – a parent of an ASD child, therapy can make a big difference in the way you handle this longstanding situation that you’ve been handed. Ultimately, it is a win-win for the whole family.