Tips for Single Mothers of Children on the Autism Spectrum

“Hello, I’m a single mother raising a 5 y.o. son with high functioning autism. My ex is also on the spectrum, he has the older diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome. I get no parenting help or financial assistance from my ex. So I’m the only parent my son has basically. Any tips for single moms raising children on the autism spectrum? Thank you!”

When a mother is a single parent and there is a youngster with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) to care for, the challenges can make life feel like a true test of endurance, but it can be done. It does take more effort and organization, though. Single parenting a child with HFA can be extremely stressful – as well as rewarding. Finding solutions to most of the problems is the first step toward keeping you from feeling overwhelmed. Almost every problem has a solution. The real trick to success as a single parent is not losing yourself in the parenting process.

Tips for single moms with an HFA child:

1. First of all, know that you are not alone. Having an HFA youngster can feel very isolating. It’s easy to stay home and think that you are the only one dealing with that situation. Seek out support groups.

2. A single mom needs a social life as much as anyone else. In addition to caring for your son, you may be working full time, meeting the needs of your other kids, and taking care of the home, which leaves you little free time. Fatigue takes on a new meaning, and having social interaction outside the home is so far on the back-burner it is hard to remember what it was like to “have a life.” Nonetheless, it is important to carve-out some time in your schedule for fun social activities. The key is having fun interaction with other grown-ups.

3. Read everything you can about your son’s disorder. The Internet also offers a broad spectrum of information on nearly every type of disorder. Websites, chat rooms, and the like are tremendous sources of information about conditions, treatments, and medications that are up-to-the-minute.

4. Avoid being argumentative with your ex-husband over his lack of interest in being a co-parent. It won’t get you anywhere.

5. Be your son’s best advocate. Fight for the best information, treatment, doctors, and options that exist. Familiarize yourself with the law. Every mother raising a child on the autism spectrum has to be her own researcher.

6. When  stressed-out, single moms often find themselves less able to connect with their kids or focus at work, which may lead to acting-out behavior by the children, time-consuming mistakes at work, and other things that increase stress for the mother and her family. Therefore, taking a proactive stance on stress-management is quite important. Having several quick stress relievers on hand (e.g., breathing exercises), as well as long-term stress-management strategies in place (e.g., regular exercise, meditation) can relieve significant stress for single moms.

7. So much of being a mother takes an emotional and physical toll on you that you have to get out and do something for yourself on an ongoing basis. Try an activity that you never did before, or go back to something you gave up in your marriage (e.g., learn how to play a musical instrument). Put yourself out there. Try anything creative.

8. Remember that your son’s disorder is not your fault, nor is your spouse to blame. It does no good to look for someone to focus your anger on. Pointing your finger at your spouse or his medical or family history is not productive and can be extremely hurtful. Blame can only damage the relationship further.

9. Consider getting a pet. If you don’t have one, think of getting one. It takes the focus away and puts it on something else. Animals spread love around.

10. Enjoy your own company. It may have never occurred to you when you were married that you could actually enjoy your own company. You can do that. Also, don’t date too soon. You can fall in love too quickly. You can’t be a great mother unless you are a great person.

11. Find a support group. If you can’t find it in your community, you can find one online. You have to make a concerted effort to start to build your new family based on reciprocity and support. It can also help to start building self-esteem. You realize you are not the only one.

12. Remember that even if the relationship with your ex has no chance in the world of being civil, there needs to be a peaceful environment for your HFA son.

13. If you don't have anyone in your life that you can share your feelings with on a daily basis, work at developing friendships that are true give-and-take relationships. A local support group that includes single moms might be helpful. Some support groups have a network of mothers who are on “phone duty” that you can call at any time when you need to talk or vent your emotions.

14. After a divorce, ex in-laws can become a problem for you. A direct approach to the grandparents may not be welcome. If you find yourself in this situation, begin by bringing the matter to the attention of your ex, who may be willing to intervene on your behalf. If your ex refuses to support you in this matter, limit your interaction with the grandparents as much as possible. While they have every right to see their grandson, you can and should limit your own time with them for your own sanity.

15. Kids with HFA may seem to be unaware of the environment around them, but they usually are much more in tune with the emotions of others than it appears. If the mom and dad are arguing or fighting, the youngster is apt to act-out with defiant behaviors. The grown-ups in the situation, by keeping their own tempers in check, can prevent this. Remember that although your relationship may be over, the relationship both of you have with your son is not.

==> Special Offer for Single Parents of Kids on the Autism Spectrum 

16. Know that ALL your feelings are normal. Be sad. Be mad. It’s only natural.

17. Move your bedroom to a different room in your house. Make the old one a study or a play room. Redecorate to reflect your individual tastes and make the house more of your home.

18. Next time you're feeling particularly done in, declare a day off from: worrying, saying the right thing, planning ahead, multitasking, making phone calls, making appointments, knowing it all, holding it in, handling details, exercising, solving problems, serving as case manager, caring what other people think, being Supermom, being behavior cop, doing research, fighting battles, filling out forms, etc.

19. Your HFA son may push your buttons, but giving big reactions to bad behavior may send the wrong message. Showing that you can control your feelings and avoid meltdowns yourself models appropriate behavior for your son, and leaves you feeling better, too.

20. Lastly, pray for guidance and assistance from your Higher Power!

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

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


•    Anonymous said... Federal tax credits
•    Anonymous said... First of all - well done. Be proud of yourself for getting you both this far. Just recognise you're not superhuman. You will need help and support - you both will. Xxxx
•    Anonymous said... Have support somewhere. Friends, family, church, local support groups- whatever is available & works- use it.
•    Anonymous said... I can relate to you. It's a very difficult road especially when working and caring for other children as well. Stay away from people who are negative or judgemental, they will only bring you down. So many people are ignorant and misinformed about HFA and being a single mum can bring extra judgements. Look for support of other mums in similar situations who can understand and relate to you. Hopefully you have got a close friend or other family member who can offer you some respite, even for an hour or so to grab a coffee when things are really tough. Dr Tony Attwood, Sue Larkey, ASPECT, great websites that offer information, tip sheets, workshops etc. I find that reading a lot about HFA helps to validate and reassure me about what I am doing especially when people are questioning me. Depending on where you live you can apply for some financial assistance for your HFA child, talk to your child's paediatrician about what you're entitled to. Good luck, keep up the great work and remember you are not alone
•    Anonymous said... Invest in an advocate or education lawyer to help you with advocating for your child at school. Even if the school/teachers have a good relationship w you this is important! You will never know how much it could have helped your child - I am a special ed teacher and a single parent of a kiddo on the spectrum and this is one thing I would have done from the start if I'd know better. Another thing I would have done was find a community that supports me - like a church or group or club. And the best thing you will ever do is to seek balance - keep time for laughing and fun. Enjoy your time - he's growing up and he'll never be this age again
•    Anonymous said... Oh, and don't expect people with two parent households to get it - don't look for sympathy - there's none out there - just carry on doing a wonderful job and the greatness you put into your parenting will be your reward.
•    Anonymous said... Right here with you. I'm a mom of three, with one HFA. It's rough but we are managing. I agree with the above comments. Surround yourself with happy, supportive people. The are programs out there, it just might take a few tries to find the right one.
•    Anonymous said... Routine, routine, routine!! I am a single mum of 3 with 15 yr old dtr diagnosed 12 mths ago. She refuses to let her father have any involvement in her life due to various reasons. She is very high maintainence with depression & anxiety to go with it literally living in my pocket 24/7. I find by maintaining a reasonably rigid routine she copes better with daily life giving me the chance to get stuff done & look after my other 2 who are 13 & 9. I look for her triggers & try catch it before she melts down completely. She has a pet rabbit that I give her before crisis point, pop her into her room with it where she cuddles it til she settles a little (rabbit doesn't seem to mind to much either lol). It is very hard, isolating work but worth the love from your child. I find that for me routine is the best way for us both to manage - hope it helps. Good luck xo
•    Anonymous said... tip for the day: you are not alone
•    Anonymous said… It is a hard job to be a single parent. After 2 failed brief marriages I am single mother again with a 14 year old son. He is battling depression and having issues with communication/ socialization despite being in a mainstream private school for 9 years. Every day is a challenge. In my spare time I enjoy doing absolutely nothing, except watching tv. I'd like to join a support group. Any suggestions online?
•    Anonymous said… I’m a single parent with a child with HFA and other children as well. I think the most important thing is to learn to accept that your life looks different than your peers’. You can’t do all they do, your kids can’t just “roll with it” or stay out late so that you can do more family/ social events. When I accepted that our lives were just different, it took a lot of pressure off both myself and my kid to look “normal.”

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