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Raising Kids on the Spectrum: Dealing with Parental Stress

Of course, not all moms and dads with Aspergers or high functioning autistic (HFA) kids are under stress, but many are. As one mother states, “You learn to live with a significant amount of stress and you throw yourself into your everyday job as a parent when you have a youngster with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. If you work outside the home, you work even harder - and you don't think much about taking care of yourself.

Some moms and dads worry that they could have done something to prevent their youngster's problems. They also agonize over whether they could do more now. Some stress is to be expected. As long as you're sleeping and eating well, enjoying much of your day-to-day life, and finding support where you need it, your stress is probably not too overwhelming.

Are you too stressed? Ask yourself these questions:
  • Are symptoms of stress impeding your functioning?
  • Are you finding it hard to get through the day's activities?
  • Are you having a hard time eating, sleeping, or getting up in the morning?

If you're exhausted and overwhelmed on a regular basis, you're more susceptible to physical and mental disorders. You may need time and help to recharge your batteries and find coping mechanisms. And it's important to take action now for the future. After all, when you're the mother or father of a "special needs" youngster, you're in it for the long term.

An experienced professional can help give you concrete ideas for finding time and space for yourself. He/she can also work with you to develop specific coping strategies. Changes in attitude can make a big difference, and there are many ways to work on your own feelings. It may also be helpful to have an appropriate time and place to let out pent-up frustration that's so often a part of coping with a youngster with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

It's important to find a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker who has specific experience in working with families affected by autism spectrum disorder. To find such a person, get in touch with local support groups and ask for advice. Check out online databases. Ask your family doctor for suggestions, too. Some states offer a service called "mobile therapy." This program brings therapists into your home to work with you and your whole family.

The main thing parents with an Aspergers or HFA youngster need to know is that they are not alone. There is help out there! Even if you are a single mom raising kids alone, there is help. It's up to the parent, however, to realize that it's not a sign of failure as a parent to need and accept help in caring for your child.

Discipline for a child on the autism spectrum is often very different than the way you would discipline a neurotypical child. So a parent is often left feeling helpless and not knowing what to do, and feeling they have nowhere to turn in getting a break from parenting. In fact, a lot of moms and dads actually feel guilty for even wanting a break, let alone taking one. The idea of a few hours away from their youngster makes them feel as though they are failing him or her as a parent. For some reason, some parents feel that to parent their youngster, that means being around them and caring for them 24/7 without any outside help.

Moms and dads need to take a break! Hire a competent babysitter, even a nurse if needed, get family to help, ask a friend for help! The point is this: get out of the house alone or with your spouse for a few hours and enjoy yourself. You can’t change any of the issues your youngster may have, but you can get a break. You can get out a few hours a week alone to unwind and you can get help to allow you to get that much needed break.

There are no easy answers on how to raise a son or daughter on the spectrum. Every child is different, as is every parent in their parenting methods. But the stress level is invariably there. Handling the stress is necessary in order to provide good care not only for your youngster, but for yourself and the rest of the family as well.

Many parents go through a difficult time when their youngster is first diagnosed. But after a year or two, most do learn to cope, enjoy their youngster's achievements and their own lives, and have fun.

These "special needs" children are special indeed – and we love our children very much. But we as moms and dads need to be able to unwind and relieve the stress so that we are better able to parent. Never feel guilty for needing to ask for help!

Bottom line: If you're not the person you normally are, then that's a reason to get help, or at least consider that possibility.

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


Anonymous said...

I almost broke down crying in the T-Moblie store this afternoon. I couldnt get my grandchild to stop running around and making loud noises and I was so embarrassed. #exhaustedgrandmom

Anonymous said...

I work harder staying at home with my Asperger kid. I gave up my teaching career to homeschool him so I am responsible for everything from being his mom, teacher, etc. I am basically more tired than when I was in a classroom all day.

Anonymous said...

I've always said that it is amazing what you can get used to dealing with. Our son doesn't have meltdowns so thankfully we don't have that issue, but with my hubby in a wheelchair and our son with Asperger's I get told all the time how sorry people are for me and I don't see why. It is our "normal". Yes, I am stressed, but I don't even think about it until my heart starts racing. I have a family that loves me, and that is what helps the stress stay manageable.

Anonymous said...

I get stressed out when I have given my son instruction to do something and I have to keep telling him over and over and over. I finally came to the understanding that I have to watch him do what I have instructed him to make sure he does it. Getting ready for school in the mornings is just as stressful. I am learning day by day and pray for God to give the ME the patience and understanding that I need to help him. We just take one day at a time.

Anonymous said...

I feel the same way !! I'm now working towards a set structured schedule for him Im very frustrated as well. I also have two daughters that have wants n needs and between phone calls that vary from him having a social conflict or. Getting suspended for throwing office furniture at school , or him pacing at the house due to his boredom issues and lord knows with his low attention span its hard to find things for him to stay entertained!! I have no family support or someone to let him visit and get away for a while to allow me to spend quality time with my daughters. We are struggling financially and I can only hold a part time job due to his needs and high demand of my time .. Yeah Hon I totally understand about praying for patience & understanding you can't even plan things because their behavior is so unpredictable!! Hang in there .. They are apart of Gods plan . Best wishes

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to learn more effective ways to manage stress. For me I'm trying to figure out the best plan for helping him master his self help needs and learning more about social cues. I think learning I can't make it a perfect world for him I can only give him the best tools I can to navigate it has helped me.

Anonymous said...

Ok, if this couldn't have come at a more perfect time. I've been on the verge of my own meltdown here the last few days. On edge, typical behaviors rubbing me raw. My boyfriend finally put me in a time-out in the tub with bubbles & a glass of wine. Guess my sensory system needs a reboot.

Anonymous said...

I've reached overload ... I can't sleep I cry all the time I snap at the four year old all the time I can't concentrate my house is a mess i'm simply not coping. I have no support my daughter is 15 her father has gone he's never helped me and hasn't even seen or spoke to her for a year as he simply can't handle her. My mum was a great help but died four years ago. I've asked social services for help they said there is nothing. I don't know where to turn for advice or support. I'm very withdrawn so my friends have all given up on me too. Trying to fight the stress becomes stressful itself :(

Anonymous said...

I have been there and god did it take a lot to get back to reality. you must start socialising again god can that hour out with a friend help put things into perspective. My son is hard work and and has melt downs every other day I have 3 other children and it can usualy take oven an hour to get him calm. Trying to get my son to do anything is a task in its self. At the end of each day I go to bed sometimes crying but we must remind our self that tommorow is a new day with a new set of challenges. Get in contact with your friends and stop cutting your self off it won't help xxx

Anonymous said...

Been there twice, yes its hard to make time for yourself,house is always a mess, not being able to work, child only at school half a day ,tired all the time,disturbed sleep,frustrated trying to be everything and everyone,mums taxi to appointments, people judging your parenting and house and commenting they cant see a problem in your child etc etc etc. BUT YOU KNOW WHAT???? We are stronger than we give ourselves credit for, and I dont know about you all, but I feel much better knowing that we all have pretty much the same issues and THAT MAKES ME FEEL A BIT BETTER.......THAT WERE NOT ALONE....STAY STRONG AND TRY TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES...GREETINGS FROM ADELAIDE< AUSTRALIA

Anonymous said...

For those of you that are in the UK, did you know that you have a legal right to respite? We only found this out after a long battle, we have been in the same situation as all of you above, and we still are at times, but now Social worker has finally put in respite of seven hours a week. It is a god send. We would have gone do lally without it! Fight for what you believe in, I know it's hard but it is worth the effort.xxxxxx

Anonymous said...

My wife and myself are going through a very difficult time with our daughter, she has cronic vocal tic disorder, adhd, and aspergers, i can relate to all of you, it is the most stressful time dealing with these issues, even though we understand our daughter cant help the way she is, it still makes you feel like your a bad parent, my wife and i regularlly fall out over things, i myself feel on the verge of a breakdown, there is some help by where we live, but not a great deal, we love our daughter very much, but need to have some space from her, but its not that easy as neither family offer to have her, and im not begging them for help, im a little relieved knowing its not just us that have these issues to deal with.

Anonymous said...

I live in lancashire,england, and recnetly found 'MOSAIC'...they offer respite as well as days out for childen with disabilities including autism and aspergers.....will find contact details and post them soon x

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

Click here
to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...