Parenting Aspergers Children: How to Cope

Question

It can be exhausting coping with my 9 year old. I often feel like a failure because I struggle to cope sometimes. Is that normal?

Answer

The diagnosis of a serious condition such as Aspergers brings many changes and demands to the family. It is not uncommon for family members to feel depressed and the NAS Autism Helpline receives thousands of calls a year from families who are under many pressures. So you are not alone!

Having a child with Aspergers has the potential to place a great deal of strain on families. Couples struggle with issues of blame, whose fault is it, and guilt. Daily routines are a constant challenge. A special needs child often comes with additional financial costs to the family.

Dealing with the school can seem like a full-time job. The time that it takes to care for a special needs child can leave other family relationships with no attention.

So 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, what you need to keep in mind is that even a few minutes a day can make a difference. Some parents just do such simple things as apply hand lotion or cook their favorite dinners to make themselves feel better.

Parents, just like individuals with Aspergers need rewards in order to be motivated. Parents who have children with autism have even more of a need to reward themselves, because parenting their child is often 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 Aspergers. This may include mom, dad and the siblings attending an amusement park together. Often families feel guilty not including the individual with Aspergers, but everyone deserves to enjoy time together that is not threatened by the challenges of Aspergers.

Search your area for support groups or networks. 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 advise from others struggling with the same challenges.

Support groups for parents, siblings and grandparents are available through educational programs, parent resource centers, autism societies and Developmental Disabilities Offices. In addition, there are now online supports available for family members.

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