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Living With Autism: Stress on Families (page 2)

— Autism Society
Updated on Jul 28, 2009

How to Deal with Stress

Luckily, family members can take action to address the stress that they experience. Accessing services or doing any additional tasks can be overwhelming, considering what parents are already dealing with on a daily basis.

However, remember that it is only by taking action that challenges can be tackled and progress toward solutions made. Below are some suggestions to get started with in enhancing family functioning.

Take Time For Yourself and Other Family Members

In order to avoid burnout, parents must make time for themselves. Parents often respond to this suggestion by saying that they don't have any time to do that.

However, you must keep in mind is that even a few minutes a day can make a big difference. Some parents do simple things for themselves such as taking the time to apply hand lotion or cook their favorite dinners to make themselves feel better. Parents, just like individuals with autism, need rewards in order to be motivated. Parents who have children on the autism spectrum have even more of a need to reward themselves because parenting their child can be frustrating and stressful.

In addition to rewarding themselves, family members need to reward one another. Spouses need to acknowledge the hard work that each is achieving. Also, remember to thank siblings for watching or helping out their brothers and sisters. It is also important that spouses try to spend some time alone. Again, the quantity of time is not as important as the quality. This may include watching television together when the children are asleep, going out to dinner, or meeting for lunch when the children are in school.

Families may also want to occasionally engage in activities without the individual with autism. This may include mom, dad and the siblings attending an amusement park together. Often families feel guilty not including the individual with autism, but everyone deserves to enjoy time together that is not threatened by the challenges of autism.

Network With Other Families Affected by Autism or Another Disability

It gives us comfort to know that we are not the only ones experiencing a particularly stressful situation. In addition, one can get the most useful advice from others facing similar challenges and using similar services and supports. Support groups for parents, siblings and grandparents are available through educational programs, parent resource centers, local ASA chapters and Developmental Disabilities Offices. In addition, there are now online supports available for family members. You can locate these sources of support and many other services in your area by using ASA’s on-line referral database, Autism Source.

Other Strategies to Address Stress

When it comes to reducing stress, be creative. You may want to consider one or more of the following approaches:

  • Prayer
  • Exercise/yoga
  • Deep breathing/relaxation exercises/meditation
  • Writing in a journal
  • Keeping a daily schedule of things to accomplish
  • Joining others in advocacy efforts at the local, state or federal level
  • Individual, marital or family counseling

If you or a family member is exhibiting signs of stress, you need to take action. Even if it takes the last bit of energy you have left, getting assistance can only make things better. Yes - waiting lists, burdensome paperwork and bureaucracy can make accessing supports stressful, but in the long run, it will be worth it.

Note: This section was contributed by Adrianne Horowitz, CSW, Director of Family Services for the Eden II Programs for Autistic Children.

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