Imagine managing working full-time, taking care of responsibilities at home, caring for your children and sprinkle that with a little Autism on top. If that doesn’t cause stress I don’t know what does. I had to let go of the stress of my career as I wrote about in my previous blog. The stress of an autism family is compared to that of a soldier in combat. That statement alone is frightening and sad.
There are days when I feel like I have failed, made the wrong decisions, and spent too much time with Sydney and ignored Harrison. On those days I just want to go in the closet and cry. I am not crying because my life is miserable. I am not crying because I am doing it alone. I am crying because my life never slows down. There is not a pause button. I wish I could push the rewind button and play the “what if” game all day. What if I took her to this doctor? What if I increased the days of therapy? What if I fought more for her at school? My tears are sometimes tears of joy as I see the progress both of my children have made. My focus is on the happy tears . The sad tears fell down my face when Sydney came home from school with a bruise and she couldn’t tell me what happened. The sad tears fall when the world doesn’t accept our family.
All mothers feel guilty for leaving their children to have some alone time. Special needs mom feel such guilt because we know, we can’t just leave our kids with anyone. In order for an autism family to make it through each day, there has to be a routine established. Timers are set to help with transitions. Sleep is unheard of, so parents function on adrenaline. Caffeine doesn’t even work for me anymore. Every member of the family is affected by autism. Each person will process it differently. It is important for the family to communicate their feelings, the good and the bad.
The stress we experience raising a child with special needs only increases as the child gets older. Each day is a chance for us to prepare them for their future.
Ways To Manage Stress Living With Autism
- Ask for help. This is very hard for me to do. I don’t want to be a burden to others. But I have learned to trust and accept people who are willing to help me. Start with family members first, ask teachers for references or even college students majoring in education to help out. An hour a week would be a blessing!
- Pray and attend church. If you have the chance to worship without your children, take advantage of that time to refuel yourself for the week. Gather inspiration to strengthen your soul.
- Join a support group. My goal is to start a support group for families of special needs children. This has been added to my vision board, so you know I will make it happen at the appointed time. I know some people don’t like to share what is happening in their home. Your child may be biting, hitting, and extremely violent. That doesn’t make you a bad parent. Talking with others in similar situations can give you strategies to try at home.
- Keep a routine or schedule posted in the home. This will make the entire family happy. Children will be less stressful when they know what to expect during the day.
- Laugh! Take the time to be silly and laugh. Forget about everything and focus on your family.
- Music/Essential Oils: I have been using Lavender in Sydney’s room before bedtime. It is not helping with sleep but the house smells good. Try calming music or sounds of the ocean. I think it relaxes me more than the kids.
- During a meltdown or a challenging moment. Remain calm. Take a moment to count to ten, take a deep breath and take care of the situation.
- For children that are nonverbal. You have mastered knowing when they are hungry, sick or tired. You can read their physical cues. Keep encouraging picture choices to encourage communication. Work with the school to make sure the iPad has PECS and other language apps. Remember that communication isn’t always spoken words!
Maybe you already have strategies that work well for you. My main message is that we have to deal with the stress. We have to use a calm, quiet voice because your child will respond to your tone. Our job as special needs parents is one that people will not truly understand unless they live it. Share your experience. The best thing that happened to me was sharing my family and story with all of you. I have already started on Embracing Autism blogs for April.
I am sharing my story so that people know that they are not alone. Don’t be ashamed if you have had to plan your day around your child. Drive a different route to avoid a meltdown. These are things that everyone won’t understand.
Believe me. You are not alone.