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A diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder will impact your whole family. Daily life with a child on the autism spectrum presents unique challenges and affects everyone in the house. You and your spouse will now have to focus much of your energy on the needs of the child with ASD, which can take a huge toll on your relationship, your work, your relationship with your other children, and your well-being. Your other children may sense the stress, and may feel they need to compete for your attention. Relatives won’t always understand what you’re going through, and can unknowingly add extra pressure, when they’re trying to help.
As you navigate the changes your child’s diagnosis brings, there are a few key things you can do to help everyone in your family cope.
Siblings will experience a range of emotions related to their brother or sister with autism. It can be hard when their brother or sister doesn’t want to play with them, throws tantrums or demands a great deal of Mom and Dad’s attention. Even from an early age, siblings can sense that their brother or sister is different, and they may be afraid to ask what’s wrong. Siblings may get jealous of all the extra attention going towards the child with ASD, and this could cause them to act out.
Occasionally, you may want to plan family activities that don’t involve your child with ASD. This is perfectly okay. Typically, families don’t do everything together, and your child with ASD may be more comfortable staying home with a caregiver than going to a crowded amusement park, or having to sit through a loud movie. Consult with a qualified professional to help you integrate your child into family activities.
For more helpful information about siblings see:Siblings of Children with Autism: A Guide for Familiesby Sandra L. Harris, Beth A. Glasberg
In most families with children, there’s a lot of focus on the kids, but when a child has special needs, it’s even more so. Days can go by where you don’t even think to ask your partner how he or she is doing. The stress of searching and paying for treatment, dealing with your child’s behaviors and trying to juggle the needs of the family can be all consuming. But, you need to work as a team and keep your relationship strong.
Once your child’s treatment is up and running, you’ll find even more time to do the things you used to. Eventually, things will get easier, and you will be able to plan date nights or enjoy more alone time as a couple.
Most important, don’t forget to take care of you. Eat right, get your sleep, and do what it takes to nurture yourself, both physically and emotionally. Your family needs you to be healthy and optimistic.
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