It can be incredibly painful for a parent to have a child whose needs are going unmet. The frustration of not being able to understand or connect with one’s own child is devastating. Despite this sentiment, parents are often too close, and perhaps too exhausted, with the situation at hand to provide the best level of care.
The specialized needs of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder may be so great that one or two adults on their own cannot sustain a program that helps their child in the most complete way. Even if they can, the strain that this places on their job, health, sleep habits, and relationship with each other may be unendurable. If any of the following are happening in your household, it may be time to seek more intensive external help. Here are 6 signs that families living with Autism Spectrum Disorder need help.
As a parent, it may seem like the thing to do is to put every ounce of energy into researching therapies for your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and reorganizing your life around their appointments and their anticipated needs. The passion you pour into helping your child has a cost; your resources are not infinite. By cutting out the time you would normally take for yourself, you risk running yourself ragged. It’s important not to lose sight of your own needs as you take care of your family.
1. Distraction and diminished performance at work;
The emotional toll of living as a family in crisis does not stop when you cross the threshold of your house. Depending on what’s going on within your home, there’s a good chance that work has slipped to a lower priority. This creates additional stress in the workplace, which may bleed over into your emotional state day to day. Given the challenges you are already facing, this is the last thing you need.
2. Neglect of marriage;
Many families may notice that each parent’s least attractive traits are magnified in their child and manifested in his or her Autism Spectrum Disorder. While it is not difficult to intellectually understand your child’s condition, understanding and accepting it on an emotional level is a different process. Many spouses fall into the trap of blaming each other for the struggles of their child.
Even if you manage to avoid this pitfall, the time and energy spent on your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder can easily take away from the curation of your marriage or partnership. Parents may look around a realize that it’s been months or even years since they made quality time for each other.
3. Neglect of needs of other children;
In a crisis, parents tend to take care of their children from the bottom up, and what your family is going through may very well qualify as a crisis. Out of nothing but the best intentions, you may have little time to worry about your well-adjusted, high-functioning children when their sibling with Autism Spectrum Disorder needs everything you can give. Seeing what the family is going through, your other children are likely doing everything they can to keep things running smoothly. Remember that they are not adults, however grown up they appear, and they are being damaged by the chaos in their home. One solution may appear to be sending the siblings of your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder away to live with a relative; however, this can be perceived as abandonment, especially by younger siblings.
4. Placing the family at risk of physical violence;
When he or she doesn’t know how to communicate his or her feelings, a child or adolescent with Autism Spectrum Disorder may act out. This can sometimes take a violent form. The last thing a parent ever wants is to risk hurting their own child, or having that child taken away by law enforcement or protective services. In the case of a family dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorder, these results would only hurt the situation anyway.
5. Social alienation of the entire family;
Given what your family is going through, maintaining social connections may be the last thing on your mind. Going out as a family without painful, attention-attracting conflict may be impossible, and you may no longer feel like your home is a place where you can invite outsiders. People need each other, however; appropriate outlets outside of the family can be so helpful at a time like this. If you have other children, they are still developing patterns for social interaction, and living in this kind of isolation can be damaging to them in forming deep relationships in the future.
The struggles we face in our families are some of the greatest challenges we will see in life. One thing we can do, is to stay realistic about when it’s time to ask for help. Living with Autism Spectrum Disorder can place an immense strain on family life and often affects the health, sleep habits, job performance, and relationships within the family structure. Staying realistic about the situation at hand can help you make the best possible choices for yourself and for your family.
To learn more about how you can help manage the strain that having a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder places on the family, and to learn more about different intervention options for ASD, download our free white paper.