Marriage Difficulties and Raising Children on the Autism Spectrum

"Is it common for parents of children with autism (high functioning) to have difficulty in their own relationships? My husband and I differ greatly on how to parent our 5-year-old son, and this is causing problems in our marriage. He thinks I'm too soft and over-protective ...I think he's too harsh at times. I am feeling so stressed on multiple levels right now. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated."

Having a child with ASD [level 1] or High-Functioning Autism definitely has the potential to place a great deal of strain on a family, and particularly on a couple. Some couples may struggle with issues of blame, how the child should be disciplined, guilt, etc.

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. All of this can add up to a number of problems that need to be looked at.

One recent study reported that mothers with children on the autism spectrum have stress levels similar to combat soldiers. Another study showed that 39% of mothers parenting children with challenging behavior are stressed at the clinically significant level, and that this stress negatively impacts a child's outcome.

Many parents of children on the spectrum are aware of this stress and isolation, but they don't know how to combat it, or they put their children's mental health ahead of our own. It is easy to identify the problem, but so much harder to find a solution.

In order to cope with the stress that comes with a child with special needs, it will be necessary to be willing to talk about your feelings with your spouse. Seek the assistance of a therapist if you have the ability and resources to do so. There are also good books out there to help you understand more about supporting one another. Also. try to locate a local support group.

Learn as much as you can about the diagnosis and options that are available to you and your child. Try to maintain a consistent routine within the home to reduce additional stressors in the family.

Lastly, and perhaps more importantly, know that you are not alone. There's nothing "wrong" with your marriage. Many parents of kids on the spectrum are experiencing the same challenges. Below is some very valuable feedback from other parents who are in the same boat:
Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD

• Anonymous said... Absolutely. It's typical for people to change their minds too.

• Anonymous said... Being aspie I think you will discover over the years that it's here to teach parents to approach their kids, leaning in with their ear first not the rod.  Aggressive behaviour towards people living with ASD only compounds sensory issues. Behaviour that NTs think is behavioural is actually neurological and corrections should not be approached with behavioural techniques.  Over stimulating children at a early age in an aggressive manners will only lead to them shutting down and by shutting Down I mean shutting out the aggressor.  As we don't need the quality and depth of relationships that NTs do its very easy for us to turn our backs on everyone including our family.  So ask your husband what kind of relationship he wants with his child in the future and perhaps he could adapt his technique accordingly.  I hope this helps.

• Anonymous said... I hear you! I have to walk away when husband disciplines. For some reason mommy instinct kicks in. He loves our son and wants him to listen. men just sound different then women when they yell or talk. Funny thing is our son listens better to him then me. Hang in there and try to find a therapist that will teach you how to work together. It worked for us!.

• Anonymous said... I think as mothers sometimes that protective lioness comes out. I am the one who went through life probably undiagnosed so I know it must be stressful on my husband to have two of us like it in the house.

• Anonymous said... It's very tough!!!! Read about it together - maybe that might help!!!

• Anonymous said... Me and hubby pretty quickly got on the same page re our son's condition and decided to use RDI to help our son become more flexible. We agreed in principle but struggled and disagreed sometimes with putting the theory into practice. We have acknowledged the strain this has put on our relationship and have worked hard to be mindful of the other's feelings, concerns and ideas when discussing anything to do with management of our son's condition. I think you have to find common ground and work from there.....be prepared to meet in the middle. We were lucky in that we agreed in principle with the theory of how best to manage the condition. Perhaps that is the place to start? Plus to explore some of the underlying assumptions you may both be making about why he behaves in a particular way and how best to manage this. Perhaps you need a mediator to help you work on this? It can be hard to work it out when you're so emotionally enmeshed in it.

• Anonymous said... My AS son is now 19 and I am married 31 years to an AS husband. It has not been easy and I learned a great deal about being patient. I too struggled greatly in the discipline area because it is so difficult to know where to draw the line with AS kids... Having an AS hubby makes it even more complicated because of the 'police' aspect of Aspergers. My strength to deal with all of this comes from the LORD. I am thankful to have Christ in my life... or I don't think I would have made it this far.

• Anonymous said... My son has Aspergers too. He is now 11 and my husband and I argue when disciplining him. My husband has to accept our son see"s things differently. He is going to the same destination we are ' he just takes a different route:-) My husband has been in denial and is slowly been coming around. Our son was diagnosed when he was 4 and we have experienced a lot of amazing moments. Our son is amazing and I am sure yours is too:-) Enjoy the journey with your son...I know your husband will come around too

• Anonymous said... sometimes you gotta let things go!what has worked for me is to discuss about the kids when they are sleeping or not in the room. communication is KEY! find out what he expects or wants for your child and tell him the same.you need to find a middle ground for you both. its vital for your childs future. and do what i do...take a break every know and then, take turns doing it! go for a car drive, meet up with friends or go for a walk, think of something to do alone. otherwise you will burn out!

• Anonymous said... We did for a little while until he started coming to therapy sessions. We also spend sometime reading together at night about aspergers. It's very helpful and now he understands a lot more. We have agreed on more things now and if we don't we discuss it before anyone hands out a time out Good luck!

• Anonymous said... When partner is disciplining walk out of earshot. If you confront them at the time they get worse. Harder on the child rather than easier. Have a chat while child is not around.

• Anonymous said... Yes, yes and yes! Daily here! My daughter is an Aspie (so am I for the record) and I know her and I both "Live in the moment" a lot. When my daughter was younger, she would meltdown so bad that I would have to hold her til she was calm so she wouldn't hurt herself. Now that she is older, she doesn't tantrum as bad, but I also know that what comes out of her mouth in the midst of being at a 10 on the emotional scale is not what she thinks overall. Aspies can be at a 10 emotionally and then a bit later be at a 2 acting as if nothing happened. My husband will then want punishments and some kind of closure to his feelings on the issue and his outrage at what happened a bit ago, and he wants something done to show that it wasn't okay for her to act out. The thing is.. I understand that she acted out because of frustration, being at a 10 emotionally and was having a meltdown (I still have them to this day sometimes myself), and if I punish her for those meltdowns, it's either going to key her up again or make her feel worse. I know she didn't mean to do those things but those emotions have to run their course because she will think clearly again. My husband just doesn't get it but I remind him over and over again "It's an Aspie thing" trust me on this.. please? She will be okay." That doesn't mean she gets away with the typical kid back talking and misbehaving, but when its emotions and frustration boiling over.. in our house, she should feel it is safe to let those out as long as she doesn't hurt anyone else or herself.

• Anonymous said... yes. you have to agree and balance the rules. Stick to them no matter what. Its the only way. Aspergers alone is confusing. makes it worse when you get two people one telling you one thing the other something else. Its not thinking of the child, forget about how you feel, the kids always go first. That is the beginning of figuring it out. Good luck.

•    Anonymous said... Absolutely...we were exactly the same way. We had to learn to compromise ...listen to each others valid points and make a plan. Its actually made our marriage stronger because we learned the reason why we felt the way we did had to do with our own upbringing. Having a common goal..helping our child..was important.

•    Anonymous said... My husband and I have a son that is now 25 - he has Aspbergers and other special needs. We had the exact same issue. To this day, we still struggle at times. So here are the two great pieces of advice that were shared through the years - and became more and more important and valuable: 1) Be the very best parent you can be at that moment. NEVER look back! Just know you did your best. Otherwise you will drive yourself insane with the 20/20 hindsight and guilt. 2) Never stop challenging your child to be all he/she can be. But!!! Be prepared to accept it when you know in your heart you've uncovered another limit in his/her life -don't try to force something that just isn't going to happen. You will only frustrate both of you and lose some of his/her trust in your safety...and you will regret it forever (I say that from experience. ) And just advice from our experience: Aspbergers was not a thing 20 years ago. GET HELP...YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO THIS ALONE NOW. It doesn't get easier...you have to work as a couple...just go get help together...even if it's just a support group. Don't forget to give your other children time to talk about their feelings and frustrations -they may need help dealing with things sometimes...don't get so busy with your 5 - yr - old that you forget to make time for the others.  Last of all...remember that your husband knows exactly how little boys feel. Some things kids with Aspbergers do are not because of their exceptionality, but because he/she is just being a kid. They start figuring out how to work you and use their unique siuation. Listen and respect each other as a couple. You will be ok! If you all can learn to look at your child's situation as he/she lived in an exceptional world. He/she will never completely adjust to your world...you can learn to adjust to theirs. You will be shocked at how your child reacts and what you really begin to learn.

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