As a parent of a child with autism, only you can understand the unique dynamics, obstacles, joys, and struggles that occur on a daily and nightly basis, but don’t worry, even though it may feel like it at times, you are not alone. Thousands of other families are handling similar situations, and the great news? There are coping skills you can use during those trying moments.
Avoid the internet:
What’s the first thing people turn to in times of need, desperation, or questioning? The internet, of course. It’s an endless resource, literally available at your very fingertips any time of the night or day.
Put your phone down. Turn the computer off. Stay off the internet.
What may start as good intention will turn into an endless black hole of “information,” leading you in hundreds of different directions, often spiraling out of control. What you need in your times of need is calm. What you need is security. The internet can be a wonderful resource but can also be your worst enemy.
When you feel the need to Google your dilemma, write it down in a journal, call a friend, turn to a book, and wait to call your doctor.
While you should trust your doctor and therapists for medical advice, sometimes the best and most comforting support you will receive is from other parents who have been there. This is where the internet can actually be a useful tool – use it to network with parents of children with autism and start building relationships.
Remember, you may feel alone, but you are not alone. Connecting with other families will assure you of this, and you can lean on one another for support, share your triumphs, and offer to listen through those bad days.
A word of caution and advice? While online groups, including social media networks, can be an excellent source of support, you should be prepared to brush off unsolicited advice. Weed through any negativity and focus on those positive relationships.
Give yourself grace:
Through the good and challenging days, doctor office waiting rooms, and waiting for school meetings, your responsibilities go on and on. Don’t forget to give yourself allowances for you Taking care of yourself is not selfish; in fact, you will be the best help to your child if you first take care of yourself. Get into a habit of making “me time” every day, even as little as 20 minutes; whether it’s reading before bed, getting in a quick workout, or finding a peaceful moment to reflect and journal, find what makes you happy and make sure to remember your needs.
Not every day is a win:
Finding what works for your child is an ongoing process; you will inevitably try things that work and run into strategies that do not work, and that’s okay. Not every day needs to a win to be considered a success. Focus on the positives, no matter how small, and learn from the trials. There are treatments and therapies that will work for your child; you may have to go through various methods before you find the right one, but it is out there.
Ask for help:
Parents have a notion that they need to take on the world, especially parents of children with special needs. But guess what – you’re human! If you’re having a hard day, you don’t have to just grin in bear it. If you need to cry and talk about it to a spouse or friend, do it – don’t hold the weight in and keep it all to yourself.
Remember: you will best be able to care for your child if you take care of yourself first. This means asking for help – doctors, partners, friends, neighbors, your child’s school – they are all part of your support system, so ask for help before you feel completely and utterly overwhelmed.
What coping strategies have worked for you? Are you a member of any online support groups or social network sites for parents of children with autism? Are you guilty of becoming a doctor of Google? Share your experiences so we can cultivate a community.