Sources of Stress for Families of Children With Autism

Parents are already familiar with the stress that comes with preparing meals, bathing, homework, shopping and so on. In addition to these stressors are tho…

Current research suggests that parents of children with autism experience greater stress than parents of children with intellectual disabilities and Down Syndrome. A child with autism may not be able to express basic wants and needs in the same manner as individuals without the disorder. Parents are often guessing why the child is crying. Is it because he/she is hungry, thirsty, hurting or sick? Not being about to determine the child’s needs can leave parents feeling frustrated and filled with sorrow. The child with autism unable to communicate with its parents effectively may be left frustrated and unhappy. This frustration can lead to aggression and self-injury behaviors that can make the child a danger to himself and to other family members.

A lack of appropriate leisure, play and social skills often require constant structure of family time, which can become quite difficult to accomplish in the home environment. Families may not be able to attend events together at scheduled times. Mom might have to stay home with the child who has autism, while dad take another sibling to their baseball game or school band concert. This in turn can create problems in the marital relationship in addition to whatever other problems already exist. There is often a lack of qualified people who can care for the autistic child while mom and dad find time to spend alone.

Additional problems may be struggles with getting the child with autism to sleep through the night or eat a wide variety of foods for proper health and nutrition.

Other sources of stress for parents of children with autism may include:

• Reactions from society: Parents may feel self-conscious about taking a child with autism out into the community. The may fear others will stare or make rude comments about their child. These problems may leave parents of children with autism experiencing a sense of isolation from friends, relatives and community

• Concerns about future care: Parents know they provide their children with autism the best care possible and they fear that no one else will take care of their child like they do.

• Finances: Evaluations, home programs and therapies can drain a family’s resources. One parent may have to give up his or job to take care of the child leaving the family with even less money to meet financial obligations.

• Feelings of Grief: Many parents of children with autism grieve the loss of the “typical” child they expected to have. They also grieve the loss of a lifestyle they expected or planned for themselves and their family. This can be an additional source of stress on the family, which is ongoing.

Sibling’s sources of stress may include:

• Embarrassment around their peers and jealousy about the extra time parents have to spend with their brother or sister

• Frustration about not being about to communicate effectively with a brother or sister who has autism

• May be the target of aggressive behaviors of the child with autism

• Worries over their parents stress and grief about the child with autism

• Concern about their role as a future caregiver for the sibling or siblings with autism

Grandparents also grieve over the loss of the typical grandchild expected and may be concerned about the stress and difficulties their children are experiencing. Grandparents often want to help but lack the skills to deal with children who have autism.

How can families cope with the stress of living with a child or children who have autism?

Some suggestions for helping families may include:

• Remember that you must take action before progress toward solutions can be made

• Take time for yourself and other family members to avoid burnout

• Keep in mind that just a few minutes per day can make a big difference in taking time for yourself

• Do things for yourself that you know normally makes you feel better

• Parents who have children with autism have a greater need to reward themselves

• Family members need to reward one another

• Spouses need to acknowledge the hard work each is performing

• Thank siblings for watching or helping their brothers and sisters who have autism

• Spouses need to find time for alone. This may include watching T.V. together when the children are asleep or going out to dinner

• Families may also want to engage in activities occasionally without the individual with autism. Everyone deserves some time together that is not threatened by the challenges of autism.

• Network with other families affected by autism

• Attend support groups for parents, siblings and grandparents through educational programs, parent resource centers, and local chapter of the Autism Society of America.

• Prayer

• Exercise/yoga

• Keeping a journal

• Keeping a daily schedule of tasks to accomplish

If you witness a family member or a friend showing signs of stress even if it means you will not be appreciated for your efforts, getting as much assistance for a child with autism and their families can only make things better over the long term.

Source: American Autism Society

Disclaimer: *This article is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any kind of a health problem. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Always consult with your health care provider about any kind of a health problem and especially before beginning any kind of an exercise routine.

This article is FREE to publish with the resource box.

By: Connie Limon –