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Showing posts sorted by relevance for query parental stress. Sort by date Show all posts

Tips for Reducing Stress Related to Parenting Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"My (high functioning autistic) child is one of the most wonderful blessings of my life – yet at times, stress may cause me to wonder if he is at the root of my most intense times of irritability and anxiety. I don't like thinking like this. Any tips on how I can reduce my stress while at the same time, care for my son's special needs.?"

Let’s be honest. Caring for a child on the autism spectrum can be tiring. On bad days, we as parents can feel trapped by the constant responsibility. The additional stress of caring for a child with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger's (AS) can, at times, make a parent feel angry, anxious, or just plain "stressed out." These tensions are a normal, inevitable part of the family, and parents need to learn ways to cope so that they don't feel overwhelmed by them.

To see if you are experiencing toxic amounts of parental stress, answer the following questions:
  1. Are you often irritable?
  2. Are you suffering from lack of sleep?
  3. Are you worried about your child’s future?
  4. Are you worried about your family’s finances?
  5. Do you avoid of social interaction outside the home as much as possible?
  6. Do you choose the self-serve lane at the supermarket and the ATM at the bank because doing things by yourself is just easier?
  7. Do you ever find yourself so rushed and distracted that it’s “just annoying” when a cashier or neighbor tries to make chitchat with you about the weather?
  8. Do you ever get so caught up in one subject (e.g., IEP worries or your frustration with your child’s school) that you catch yourself repeating the same complaints to anyone who will listen?
  9. Do you find yourself snapping at your child for interrupting you, then feeling guilty afterwards?
  10. Do you have a disregard for personal appearance and social niceties?
  11. Do you keep meaning to pick up the phone and call a friend, but find yourself too busy or distracted?
  12. Do you scan each room you enter for things that might trigger a meltdown in your youngster, (e.g., unusual smells or loud noises)? …and do you find yourself doing so even when he isn’t with you? …for that matter, after avoiding those things for so long, do you find that they now irritate you, too?
  13. Have the cute hairdos and perky outfits been replaced by ponytails and sweats?
  14. Have you ever had the thought, “I don’t like my child”?
  15. Have you found yourself getting annoyed when your spouse tunes you out or tries to change the subject?

If you answered “yes” to several of these questions, you too may be suffering from parental stress associated with parenting a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
 

Stress becomes a problem when you feel overwhelmed by the things that happen to you. You may feel "stressed out" when it seems there is too much to deal with all at once, and you are not sure how to handle it all. When you feel stressed, you usually have some physical symptoms. You can feel tired, get headaches, stomach upsets or backaches, clench your jaw or grind your teeth, develop skin rashes, have recurring colds or flu, have muscle spasms or nervous twitches, or have problems sleeping. Mental signs of stress include feeling pressured, having difficulty concentrating, being forgetful and having trouble making decisions. Emotional signs include feeling angry, frustrated, tense, anxious, or more aggressive than usual.

The stress of parenting a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder does not have to damage the bond you have with your child. In fact, if you take the necessary steps to reduce stress in your life, it can actually strengthen the closeness of your relationship with your youngster.

20 Tips for Reducing Stress Related to Parenting Children on the Spectrum

1. As a mother or father, it’s a necessity to take care of yourself so that you have the energy and motivation to be a good parent.

2. Avoid fatigue. Go to bed earlier and take short naps when you can.

3. Coping with the stress of parenting an HFA or AS child starts with understanding what makes you feel stressed, learning to recognize the symptoms of too much stress, and learning some new ways of handling life's problems. You may not always be able to tell exactly what is causing your emotional tension, but it is important to remind yourself that it is not your youngster's fault.

4. Develop good relationships. Family relationships are built over time with loving care and concern for other people's feelings. Talk over family problems in a warm, relaxed atmosphere. Focus on solutions rather than finding blame. If you are too busy or upset to listen well at a certain time, say so. Then agree on a better time, and make sure to do it. Laugh together, be appreciative of each other, and give compliments often. It may be very hard to schedule time to spend with your family, doing things that you all enjoy, but it is the best time you will ever invest. Moms and dads and kids need time to spend one-to-one. Whether yours is a one or two-parent family, each parent should try to find a little time to spend alone with each youngster. You could read a bedtime story, play a game, or go for a walk together.

5. Have a realistic attitude. Most moms and dads have high expectations of how things should be. We all want a perfect family, and we all worry about how our children will turn out. But, wanting “the ideal family” can get in the way of enjoying the one you have. 
 

6. If you don’t already belong to a group for parents of HFA and AS kids, you’re missing out on great social and emotional support. But, also remember that you had interests before you became a harried mom. Whether it’s decorating or reading murder mysteries, we all need some sort of pleasant diversion, and friendly folks to share it with. If you’re able to join a local support group and club, great! But if not, there is a plethora of online discussion groups about just about any interest you can imagine.

7. If you feel guilty about the idea of trying to plan time and activities apart from your youngster– don’t! How can we teach our "special needs" children that socialization is important, healthy, and worthwhile, if we hardly ever take time for it ourselves? So pick up the phone and plan time for some fun with a friend. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your youngster.

8. If you're feeling pressured, tense or drawn out at the end of a busy day, say so. Tell your kids calmly that you will be happy to give them some attention soon but first you need a short "quiet time" so that you can relax.

9. Keep in mind that your child experiences stress, too – at any age. So when you work on methods to reduce your own stress, try to incorporate stress relieving techniques that both you and your youngster can use to reduce stress. Of course, the stress relieving activities that you choose for you and your child to share will depend on your child’s age.

10. Learn some ways of unwinding to manage the tension. Simple daily stretching exercises help relieve muscle tension. Vigorous walking, aerobics or sports are excellent ways for some people to unwind and work off tension; others find deep-breathing exercises are a fast, easy and effective way to control physical and mental tension.

11. Look for community programs for moms and dads and kids. They offer activities that are fun, other moms and dads to talk with, and some even have babysitting.

12. Look for parenting courses in your community. 
 

13. Make a play date. The great thing about play dates for moms is that you don’t have to referee them – you just have to find time for them! Sit down with your calendar, get on the phone, and schedule time to spend with friends, at least every couple of weeks. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Go together for manicures or a trip to Target, followed by lattés, while Dad watches the kids. But make sure you schedule in play dates with Dad occasionally, too. If you can’t find a sitter, trade off watching the kids with another couple who has a youngster on the spectrum – most, I’ve found, are happy to make such a deal.

14. Make quality time for yourself, and reserve time each week for your own activities.

15. Most of us live hectic lives, and working through lunch can easily become habit. Make a commitment to yourself that at least three days a week you’re going to operate as a social human being. Go over to the food court with your coworkers, or brown bag it and catch up on the gossip in the lunchroom. You need interaction with grown-ups who are interested in topics that you are interested in. So after the dishwasher is loaded, put everybody down to nap or stick in a DVD for 20 minutes, and pick up the phone and call your best friend or sister, and give yourself a dose a grown-up time.

16. Practice time management. Set aside time to spend with the kids, time for yourself, and time for your spouse and/or friends. Learn to say "no" to requests that interfere with these important times. Cut down on outside activities that cause the family to feel rushed.

17. Take a break from looking after the kids. Help keep stress from building up. Ask for help from friends or relatives to take care of the kids for a while. Exchange babysitting services with a neighbor, or hire a teenager, even for a short time once a week to get some time for yourself.

18. Take care of your health with a good diet and regular exercise. Moms and dads need a lot of energy to look after kids.

19. Talk to someone. Sharing your worries is a great stress reducer!

20. We all have reactions to life's events which are based on our own personal histories. For the most part, we never completely understand the deep-down causes of all our feelings. What we must realize is that our feelings of stress come from inside ourselves and that we can learn to keep our stress reactions under control.

If you are considering getting some additional support or information to help you cope with the stress of parenting, there are many different resources available, including books and video tapes on stress management, parenting courses and workshops, professional counseling and self-help groups.
 
More resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:
 

Raising Kids on the Spectrum: Sensory Processing Difficulties, Behavioral Problems, and Parental Stress

"What advice would you have for parents of an autistic child exhibiting sensory regulation difficulties?"

A child's ability - or inability - to regulate sensation (i.e., the process of noticing, organizing, and integrating information from the environment and the body, and then processing and responding appropriately) significantly contributes to general behavior patterns. Problems with regulating sensory information (e.g., taste, sound, touch, smell, body movement, or body position) may lead to patterns of:
  • hypo-sensitivity or sensory-seeking behaviors (e.g., needing high levels of sensory input such as a loud noise, firm touch, repeatedly crashing into walls, banging toys in order to register the sensation, etc.)
  • hyper-sensitivity or sensory-avoidance (e.g., over-reacting to bright lights, loud noises, being held, etc.)
  • a mixed pattern of sensory-seeking and sensory-avoidance



Asperger's and High-Functioning Autistic kids with poor sensory regulation show a wide range of problems across several domains, including internalizing behavior problems, externalizing behavior problems, problems in many daily activities, and problems in emotional and attention regulation.



Here are some of the behavioral problems associated with sensory processing difficulties:
  • Academic problems: The youngster may have mild to severe learning disabilities, and problems with generalizing new concepts and skills.
  • Difficulties with self-regulation: The youngster may have difficulty with mood stability or maintaining an optimal level of arousal. She may be unable to calm herself down after an activity - or get herself going for an activity. Her arousal level may fluctuate minute-to-minute or day-to-day.
  • Difficulty with transitions: The youngster may throw a temper tantrum, be uncooperative, or experience heightened anxiety when stopping one activity and starting another. Also, he may have a difficult time leaving a particular place or going to the next task of the day (e.g., bath time, bed time, dinner, etc.).
  • Emotional problems: The youngster may have significant self-esteem issues, be overly-sensitive to criticism, transitions, or stressful situations. Also, she may have difficulty relating to others or understanding her own actions, motivation, or behavior.
  • Excessive energy level: The youngster may be unable to sit still, constantly on the run, or engage in risky behaviors.
  • Frequent hand switching: The youngster may not have a dominant hand for writing by age 5, may switch hands often while cutting or writing, or may throw a ball with both hands.
  • Impulsivity: The youngster may be unable to control impulses (e.g., to jump out of his seat) or his behavior. In addition, he may be aggressive or frequently "blurt" things out without thinking first.
  • Low energy level: The youngster may appear lethargic, uninterested in engaging in most activities, or be sedentary most of the day.
  • Low frustration tolerance: The youngster may become upset, yell or throw a temper tantrum at the slightest thing that does not go her way. She may give up on tasks easily if they are difficult for her.
  • Motor coordination problems: The youngster may appear clumsy, slouch, rest his head on his hands during desk work, exhibit awkward movements, or have frequent accidents.
  • Motor planning problems: The youngster may have difficulty with sports, riding a bike, doing jumping jacks, clapping, handwriting, balance, using eating utensils, or getting dressed.
  • Poor eye-hand coordination: The youngster may have sloppy handwriting, difficulty cutting or drawing a straight line, catching a ball, or tying shoes.
  • Resistance to the unfamiliar: The youngster may experience anxiety or refuse to meet new people, try new foods, participate in new activities, or sleep in a different environment.
  • Short attention span: The youngster may have difficulty concentrating on one activity or task for any length of time, and she be distracted by every sight, sound, smell, or movement she sees.
  • Social skills deficits: The youngster may have a difficult time relating to his peers and sharing. He may isolate, get aggressive, and be overpowering or bossy in order to help himself regulate and to control his sensory environment.
  • Uncooperative with activities of daily living: The youngster may have difficulty brushing his teeth, eating, participating in certain activities, getting dressed, going to bed, or taking a shower.

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


A child's sensory sensitivities will indeed affect his or her behavior and general temperament, but the reverse can also be true (i.e., the child's temperament may affect how well or poorly he/she deals with sensory sensitivities). Here are 9 temperaments that may be associated with either sensory-seeking behaviors or sensory-avoidance:

1. Sensory Limit: This is related to how sensitive your youngster is to physical stimuli (e.g., sounds, tastes, touch, temperature changes, etc.), and refers to the amount of stimulation needed to elicit a response (positive or negative) in him or her. For example:
  • Is your youngster a picky eater, or will he eat almost anything?
  • Does he startle easily to sounds?
  • Does he respond positively or negatively to the feel of clothing?
  • Does your youngster react positively or negatively to particular sounds?

2. Predictability: This trait refers to the regularity of biological functions (e.g., appetite and sleep). For example, does your youngster get hungry or tired at predictable times, or is he or she unpredictable in terms of hunger and tiredness?

3. Perseverance: This is the length of time your youngster persists in activities in the face of difficulty. For example:
  • Is she able to wait to have her needs met?
  • Does she react strongly when interrupted in an activity?
  • Does she persist in an activity when she is asked to stop?
  • Does your youngster continue to work on a puzzle when she has problems with it, or does she just move on to another activity?

4. Disposition: This is the tendency to react to things primarily in either a positive or negative way. For example:
  • Is your youngster generally serious?
  • Is he generally in a happy mood, or does he tend to focus on the negative aspects of life?
  • Does your youngster see the glass as half full?
  • Does she focus on the positive aspects of life?

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

5. Emotional Energy Level: This is the intensity of a response, whether positive or negative. For example:
  • Does your youngster get upset in a very strong and dramatic way, or does he just get quiet when upset?
  • Does he react strongly and loudly to everything - even relatively minor events - or do most things seem to roll off of his back?

6. Physical Energy Level: This refers to how active your youngster is in general. For example:
  • Is he always on the go, or does he prefer sedentary quiet activities?
  • Is your child content to sit and quietly watch?
  • Does she have difficulty sitting still?
  • Does your child seem to always wiggle, squirm or pace?

7. Attention Level: This is the degree of concentration and paying attention exhibited when your youngster is not particularly interested in an activity. This characteristic refers to the ease with which external stimuli hampers the ongoing behavior. For example:
  • Does he or she become sidetracked easily when attempting to follow routine or working on some activity?
  • Is your child easily distracted by sounds or sights?
  • Is your child easily soothed when upset by being offered an alternate activity?

8. Approach/Withdrawal: This refers to the youngster’s typical response to strangers or a new situation. For example, does she eagerly approach new situations or people, or does she seem hesitant and resistant when faced with new situations, people or things?

9. Flexibility: This is related to how easily the youngster adapts to changes and transitions (e.g., switching to a new activity). For example:
  • Does he take a long time to become comfortable in new situations?
  • Does he have difficulty with changes in routines, or with transitions from one activity to another?

Sensory processing difficulties in kids on the autism spectrum often have a significant impact on the parent-child relationship. A child experiencing these difficulties can react to his parents or his environment in ways that are unpredictable or seemingly irrational. For instance, a youngster who is overly-sensitive to stimuli can react negatively to the parent's voice or touch, or from a tag in his clothing. As a result, the parent can be confused by the youngster’s reactions - and experience a sense of incompetence in his or her parenting skills.

Moms and dads of kids with sensory processing difficulties report higher levels of parenting stress than parents of "typical" children. As sensory processing difficulties increase in severity, so does the level of parental stress.

Early identification of sensory processing difficulties, and an increase in referrals for occupational therapy, may lead to a reduction in childhood problems and parental stress. Also, new pathways for multi-disciplinary evaluation and treatment that emerge as the mental health field becomes more aware of the signs and symptoms of sensory processing difficulties in kids on the spectrum may lead to a reduction in childhood problems and parental stress.

==> More crucial parenting strategies for dealing with behavior problems in kids and teens on the autism spectrum...

Helping Aspergers Children Alleviate School-Related Stress

Research suggests that up to 80% of students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism experience school-related anxiety at some point during their school career. Anxiety Disorders such as OCD, Social Anxiety and Generalized Anxiety Disorder commonly co-occur with Aspergers.

When anxiety symptoms are untreated, they can further interfere with a child's quality of education. Kids with both Aspergers and Anxiety Disorders experience a more limited social world than kids with only one disorder. They may have difficulty in adapting at school by avoiding opportunities to make friends, join social activities, and break their usual rituals to try something new.



Although little is known about what anxiety symptoms look like in Aspergers students, the following symptoms (which overlap with Anxiety Disorders) indicate school-related anxiety:
  • Avoidance of new situations
  • Becoming "silly"
  • Becoming explosive easily (e.g., anger outbursts)
  • Increased insistence on routines and sameness
  • Increased preference for rules and rigidity
  • Increased repetitive behavior
  • Increased special interest
  • Irritability
  • Somatic complaints
  • Withdrawal from social situations

So, what can parents do to alleviate their Aspergers child’s school-related anxiety? Here are some tips:

1. Encourage sleep, exercise, and family mealtimes. It's not unusual for 30% - 40% of Aspergers children to get 6 hours of sleep or less (due to Aspergers-related sleep difficulties). Very few are getting the required hours that a child needs (which is 9 ½ hours). Adequate sleep alone will make a big difference in the child’s stress levels.

Exercise to help cope with stress is also an important step toward alleviating school-related anxiety. If all a child has is academics during the day and computer games during the evening, stress due to the lack of exercise is going to build up – and it's got to go somewhere. It's going to help if Aspergers kids are being physically active.

Family time is also crucial for cushioning stress. Having meals together is a good way to connect with your youngster (i.e., a minimum of 20 minutes sitting down together at least 4 to 5 times a week). Listen to your kid, and communicate with him.

2. Keep the fun in childhood. Kids often have too little unstructured time to relax and play, from a leisurely bike ride with friends to a Sunday hanging out at the park. School is their job, and you know how stressful jobs can be. If you don't go and have fun and forget about it for a little while, you're just going to take it with you the next day. And you’re not going to perform as well.

3. Over-scheduling is a big source of school stress. For example, many high-school students enroll in more Honors or Advanced Placement courses than they can handle, and then pile extracurricular activities on top.

If parents filled their kids' schedules with more sleep, down time, and family time, they would notice such a big difference in their children’s stress level. It would be that dramatic of a change. There are so many things to do now. It's not like you just go outside and play. Now there are clubs, sports, ballet, gym – plus you're trying to squeeze homework in there.

As a society, we're just in a whirlwind. For some Aspergers kids, this hurried lifestyle is a source of stress and anxiety that often leads to depression. The challenge is to strike a balance between work and play. If your youngster feels overly stressed and overwhelmed, look for ways to cut back on school work and extra activities (though that's not easy for overachieving parents to hear).

4. Teach kids time-management skills. With today's heavy homework loads, time-management and organizational skills are crucial weapons against stress. Teach your Aspergers kid to budget his time wisely with homework. For example, he should try to do something every night instead of cramming at the last moment.

5. Watch for signs of school-related stress. With Aspergers teens, parents should watch for stress-related behaviors, like purposely cutting themselves, or expressions of despair or hopelessness, however casual the comments may sound. Those are off-hand remarks that you need to take seriously. Younger kids may have more subtle signs of school stress (e.g., headaches, stomachaches, reluctance to go to school, etc.).

6. Watch the parental pressure. Some parents may not realize they're making school stress worse by pressuring their Aspergers kid to excel. But moms and dads who want to ease their youngster’s stress must shift their perspective.

Really think about how you're defining success in your family. If the first question out of your mouth when your child walks through the door is, “How did you do on that Math test today?” …then you're sending a message that you value grades more than anything else. Instead, ask: "What's the best thing that happened to you today?" "Did you learn anything exciting or new?" At first, the conversations may be awkward. It's going to take some practice. But just asking the questions in that way is starting to send the right message.

It's not easy for some parents to lighten up. Even moms and dads who wish to take a lower-key approach to child-rearing fear slowing down when they perceive everyone else is on the fast track. Try to keep in mind that a few low test grades won't torpedo your youngster's lifelong plans.

7. Use some stress-relieving homework tips:
  • Ask the school about resources if your Aspergers youngster is struggling academically. Many schools now have homework clubs, math clubs, and tutoring programs after school.
  • Give your youngster a quiet place to study, free of distractions, away from TV and video games.
  • If your youngster struggles with tracking his homework, help him by following along with homework if his school posts assignments online.
  • If possible, have your youngster study earlier rather than later in the day. The later it is for most children, the shorter their attention span.
  • Teach your youngster to use a planner to keep track of assignments. When he finishes each assignment, he can check them off for a feeling of accomplishment.

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism


 COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... Definitely applies to my anxious, perfectionistic, Aspie. I try to ask her more about the fun stuff after school every day.
•    Anonymous said... I have aspergers, GAD, OCD, and SPD and I hated school. I home school my kids I would never torture them with public schools. I was bullied even by my so called friends also one teacher. I am indifferent and easily annoyed by faux social BS. I do not require friends, however if I meet a person with similar interests I will engage and try to remember to ask them questions and I tell them that I have aspergers and I wont ever call them or anything so if they want to meet up to just call me and a couple do. (play dates which I normally hate) I like to limit my stress, noise blocking head phones, sunglasses so I can make sure I take my kids out to do lots of fun things. I do not handle schedules or appointments well at all. School is one big schedule! Im guessing parents of aspie kids make them shower every day. Big mistake! you just exhausted half their energy for the day. You can stay clean and not shower daily. Its like you dont take a hungry baby that hasnt napped out to the grocery store! Make them feel comfortable and if they are not figure out a way to make them comfortable, comfort is key to me and that includes my routine, how my clothing feel, list of things I require to function etc I shut down more then I melt down becuase I have a very understanding family that are so thoughtful to help not contribute to over stimulation. Comfort = peace, for me anyway
•    Anonymous said... This is totally my son, but he doesnt see it. He refuses to go to therapy and has missed 8 appointments due to refusal, he doesnt see anything is wrong. He now rarely goes to school. Has anyone else found luck getting treatment for teen who refuses to cooperate?

Post your comment below…

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

Reducing Parental Stress While Raising Children on the Autism Spectrum

Question

My wife and I feel like the world's worst parents. Our 12-year-old daughter (high functioning) pushes us to the breaking point daily. We try to manage her behaviors appropriately, but we often end up yelling. We know her behaviors are not her fault. But in the heat of the moment, our best intentions are overwhelmed by 12 years of frustration. We have talked to a psychologist for family counseling, but just got a lot of sympathy. We love our daughter and want to do a better job.

Answer

The first thing you have to realize is that you are not the world's worst parents. The fact that you are seeking help is evidence of this. Over time, relationships develop patterns, and sometimes these can be self-defeating. Yelling is the result of your frustrations with a situation that seems to have no solution at the time. I remember how angry I was when my Aspergers grandson (high functioning) was 9-years-old. I had a hard time accepting his Aspergers-related behavior. I walked around with a chip on my shoulder – always ready to correct him by yelling at him.

In terms of behavior, you and your wife can learn some straight forward behavioral techniques that will help. You need strategic guidance – not just sympathy. I appreciate your courage in being honest about how you feel. Anger, one of the most intense and least understood human emotions, is probably the scariest and most socially unacceptable emotion to own up to. It often arises with the thought, "Why me? Why did I do to deserve this?" It is normal for moms and dads of "special needs" children to get frustrated and direct anger at their youngster, themselves, each other, the doctor, mercury, the local school district, etc. Many parents in your situation also feel guilty (e.g., “It’s probably my fault that my child has an autism spectrum disorder”).



As with most negative patterns of behavior, it is likely that you promise yourself on a daily basis that this time you will not yell, but at this point your relationship with your daughter ends up in the same place because nobody can figure a way out of the trap. Things may need to be set up differently in your home to help you optimize your relationship with your little girl. Your daughter may be reacting to things that many of us would not realize or understand. She may not understand or be able to let you know what it is. The bottom line is this: you may simply lack some of the skills necessary for raising an autistic youngster, and that is not surprising given the level of complications that these kids often bring.

Some of the behaviors of kids with high functioning autism (HFA) and Asperger's can push any one of us to our breaking point. It is important to remember though, as you stated yourself, that your daughter is not purposely pushing you to your breaking point, just as you are not purposely "breaking."

Do you need the advice of a professional who specializes in parenting children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders?  Sign-up for Online Parent Coaching today.

So what can be done?

First, be sure to watch out for a faulty belief system (i.e., negative self-talk) that contributes to parental stress (which results in much anger, frustration, and yelling). For example:
  • Giving 100% every day is what every parent is expected to do.
  • I refuse to let anyone else care for - or influence - my ‘special needs’ child.
  • I should always deny my own needs for rest and recreation in order to help my child.
  • I should do everything for my child and not require her to take on responsibilities she can’t handle.
  • I should feel guilty if I need a break or want some attention for myself.
  • I should spend every possible moment with my child.
  • I will be seen by society as a good and honorable person because of the effort I put into being a good mother/father.
  • My child should “like” me.
  • My child should appreciate everything I do for her.
  • One role in my life (i.e., the role of parent) can satisfy all my needs and can support all my dreams.
  • Other people must see me as a good parent, able to handle everything.
  • The success or failure of my child depends entirely on me.

Any of these beliefs (or ones similar to them) will directly translate into anger and frustration. Here are some ways to counteract a faulty belief system:
  • Be able to live in the presence of imperfection.
  • Boost your own self-confidence.
  • Develop a support system by sharing honestly your feelings of frustration, anger, and concern.
  • Develop the positive belief that you can control destiny.
  • Be selfish (in a healthy way).
  • Free yourself from needing outside approval.
  • Learn to catch yourself when you say negative statements to yourself and challenge them.
  • Learn to tolerate change (because kids with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism change a lot over time).
  • Practice positive thinking by daily affirmations; repeat positive messages to yourself over and over.
  • View love, affection, and approval from your child as a bonus – not a “need.”
  • See the positive side of stress.
  • Understand anger and use it constructively; control anger by controlling wishes.

Other things that contribute to parental stress:
  • Coping with difficult autism-related behaviors
  • Dealing with the school about your child's placement or program
  • Educating neighbors and relatives about your child's issues
  • Financial pressures
  • Getting your child in the right school
  • Home-schooling your child
  • Helping her with homework
  • Helping siblings understand the problems associated with the disorder
  • Working with your “not-too-involved” spouse on child management
  • Dealing with unexpected meltdowns (especially in public)

How to cope with parental stress associated with raising a child on the spectrum:

1. Analyze problems thoroughly:
  • Describe the problem with a specific statement.
  • State how it could be worse and how it could be better.
  • Determine what is keeping it from getting better.
  • Propose solutions for the things over which you have control.
  • Plan action.

2. Use time management:
  • List priorities – both short and long term.
  • Do a time use audit.
  • Compare time use with priority of goals.

3. Develop assertiveness:
  • Know your limits, and be realistic about what you can accomplish. Say no to unreasonable demands.
  • Learn about your child's problems and needs so that you can be an active participant in meetings with school personnel and can offer suggestions to coaches, neighbors, and relatives.

4. Address physiological stressors:
  • Recognize that children with special needs require exceptional amounts of energy. In order to replenish energy, parents need to be sure they get sufficient rest, eat well balanced meals, and exercise vigorously.
  • Learn meditation or relaxation techniques to use when they feel stressed, anxious, or fatigued.

5. Use other stress-reducing strategies:
  • Find a place of retreat (e.g., the bathroom or the car), and go there for cooling off when the tension is very great.
  • Follow your physician's advice.
  • Hire out or trade off chores that are time consuming and distasteful. Sometimes it is well worth paying someone else to do those chores so that you have more time and energy to devote to yourself and your family.
  • Make recreation and relaxation a priority, so that you have some time off during the week. Studies have shown that psychologically healthy families have “less-than-perfect” housekeeping.
  • Team up with a spouse or friend for time off.
  • Use relaxation tapes or exercises to calm down after a hectic day.

It may help you to think about what other feelings you may have besides the frustration and the anger (e.g., fear, sorrow, worry). What would be there if the anger disappeared? Moms and dads like you are trying to make sense out of what has happened (e.g., "If we are good parents, then how come we can’t get our child to behave appropriately – even if she has this ‘disorder’?"). Moms and dads of HFA and Asperger's children need to allow themselves to experience anger, to cry, and to scream. It is all part of the grief process. Indeed the disorder can be tough to live with, but trying to deny or minimize how hard it is to have such a youngster only prolongs the suffering you are describing.

Anger is a reflection of the hurt and fear. Gaining perspective, along with time and compassion, can help curb the associated frustrations. It is probably worth another try to connect with a mental health professional who can guide you through this. If nothing else, your daughter will teach you to be patient with what you can’t change.


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PARENTS' COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… ABA Therapy has been a life changer & life saver for our family.
•    Anonymous said… All these so called therapists cost money its easier said than done ,my son and daughter in law have a massive problem with their son no help here in nz its shocking they love him as i do but at times who knows what triggers him off but he also brings them to breaking point. The temper is unleashed and its shocking so I feel sorry for you as our country is so far behind the times its not funny.
•    Anonymous said… Excellent tips for the guilt ridden parent. Thank you!
•    Anonymous said… For therapy, seek out a Cognitive Behavior therapist who has worked with Aspie teens.
•    Anonymous said… I can so relate to this. Our daughter is 9. She is not yet diagnosed but I am convinced she has aspergers. It's tearing our family apart. And the reality is that not even good, conscious parents can deal with this alone as a team. It really takes other people, professionals community and family. So far we have had zero help or support. professionals have not made the diagnosis hence we are not getting appropriate professional support, family writes her off as a brat and blames our parenting for her meltdowns and rigid thinking. Community rejects her and does the same as family. I guess if nothing else, take heart that you as a couple are at least both on the same page and fighting for her. I often feel like I am fighting for her alone as my partner frequently forgets her challenges and adopts the same attitude as everyone else. His responses to her frequently exascerbates her issues. As patient as I force myself to be majority of the time I get to the point of yelling as well as breaking down to tears. But they are our children and we have to keep going and fighting for them no matter what. There is no other choice. I have to remind myself daily that difference is not deficit and that her wiring is beneficial in so many ways to our rigidly conformist society. Someday she will find her niche and thrive. I have to believe our girls came here to change this world. It needs a change.
•    Anonymous said… I do not engaged with my son in a meltdown. I will say to him I understand. (I do too) He has 2 rules keep his hands and mouth to himself. I stay matter of fact. He goes to his room to calm down. When he is calm we talk about what happened and why. write down the rules make a plan. If he gets verbal to me He looses computer for the day. I really think it is a lack of not knowing the right way to communicate. He is 16 now and much better. No more 4 hour meltdowns. It does get better. Hang in there.
•    Anonymous said… I feel you... Going through the same thing with my ASD Miss 7 frown emoticon
•    Anonymous said… If you haven't addressed diet...I highly recommend...removing dyes and gluten and minimizing sugars were game changers...helped reduce frustration and what we call "tunnel vision". We also do ABA...it gives him practice on appropriate skills and makes him more aware of his own being. We also incorporate essential oils and it has drastically changed his moods...less meltdowns and anxiety!! Good luck! Jr High age is some of the most difficulty years for an aspie kid is what we hear over and over! Try your best to create your own rules where you disengage by using breathing technique or counting or whatever...so you aren't wasting negative energy and increasing your own stress! I have a phrase I say over and over in my head when I find myself overwhelmed or engaging in useless behaviors like yelling "relax and be productive...relax and be productive " I repeat till I feel calm and generally that gives my son time as well...and I tell him...I need a minute because I love you and my only goal is to help!
•    Anonymous said… I've found more help on fb sites than any doctor. Start with one issue to work on at a time so it's not overwhelming. And keep asking fb sites questions. We are the ones dealing with it and can instantly give ideas. Our 12 yr daughter has been taken out of school and placed into a Montessori type school that has only 25 kids K-8th grade. That helped a ton. After a year when she ages out I don't know what we'll do, probably homeschool and get her in small group clubs/activities . Also, a chiropractor has helped us greatly, as well as a sensory specialist
We also use quality probiotics, vit D, omegas, and no dairy . Reducing stress for all of us has been our priority
•    Anonymous said… My 15 year old son was just diagnosed this past February with aspergers so needless to say we missed out on all the early interventions. Now we are dealing with an out of control teen with melt downs. He is now in an inpatient facility awaiting for a residential treatment program to be approved. Does anyone know of any good facilities on Pennsylvania.
•    Anonymous said… My son is 14 and just recently got diagnosed. I choose my battles wisely. I just got him to do dishes. He wont do them all but he will do one sink full. I build from there.
•    Anonymous said… Our daughter was diagnosed at 12. One thing we have found that works well, on the advice of her therapy team, is to give very concrete answers when she asks for something. Not knowing if or when she'd get something she was asking for would crank up her anxiety. For example, she'd ask when she'd get to go xyz. I'd tell her, we'll see. Her behavior would deteriorate and she'd get cranky. Now I tell her, at 4PM or no earlier than 4PM, I will have a definite answer then. Somehow that calms her down. If she continues to ask, our code word is "badgering". She understands, based on conversations we have when she's in a relaxed mood, that if she badgers, she won't get what she wants at all.
•    Anonymous said… Read the posts on this page and ask a ton of questions. My son was not diagnosed until he was 11. I researched where I could take him for testing and diagnoses. It was a true life saver. I had an older daughter who put me through hell, but then I had a son I was losing and had to learn how to be HIS parent. I stopped listening to others about what I should be doing and started asking others on here how they handled it. It completely changed our lives. The normal parenting rules do not work for these kids. But once you start working together these are the biggest blessings ever. My son is easy now.
•    Anonymous said… we need this today. Read some of the comments. We are not alone.
•    Anonymous said… Believe me, you have an army of friends here that are exactly the same. Its tough...we try our best and at the end of the day we love our children despite what we go through.
•    Anonymous said… Hang in there and know you're not alone! Best advice I was given was when your child yells at you, she wants the negative feed back of you yelling back. Don't give in. Tell them "I love you too much to argue", or "I only argue on Tuesdays at 2:30 pm" just something over and over that they understand you're not going to engage with them. Be a robot. Take the emotion out of it. It's SOO hard, but important and it works.
•    Anonymous said… It may help to have some comforting items in the area to distract or something she can take her anger out on. We have pets so that helps my daughter disengage. Also she uses noise cancelling headphones to calm herself. However, at the beginning of dealing with her outbursts I would leave stacks of paper for her to tear up and stomp on when she was angry or punch pillows. Allowing her to express her emotions deliberately on items we had agreed upon together seemed to work for a while. But sometimes she would refuse to use this strategy for her anger and I would be at a loss. Hang in there!!!
•    Anonymous said… My 10 yr old is just in the process of a diagnosis so I am very new to this. A big problem I have is she won't allow me to step away. She will follow me!! Any tips on getting her to understand we need to break and calm down?
•    Anonymous said… SAME....I feel like we've lived 15 years of hell & I hate feeling soooo depleted & exhausted.....I feel like I can't even enjoy my son & being a mom because everything is chaos 24/7......know you're not alone!!! It's the worst feeling in the world 😢 😢 😢 😢
•    Anonymous said… Talk to someone who doesn't just offer sympathy, but someone who can suggest coping skills for you as parents, siblings, and your child (struggling the most). Sometimes you have to try out a few therapists before you find someone who is more effective. My daughter's therapist invites family members in on sessions to have family discussions on how everyone can work together to manage emotions and frustrations on all sides. Also, deep breaths. Sometimes my 9 year old ADHD/Aspergers daughter drives me to the brink of insanity....I have to always remember to step away and stop speaking. Breathe. Create space. When the heat of the moment passes, everyone can communicate more logically and rationally about what led up to the situation and how to cope and/or prevent the next occurrence. It sounds like you all have the right mindset and heart is in the right place, these things take time and effort and so much patience. But oh how lucky our kids to have us rock star parents  :D hugs xo
•    Anonymous said… Thanks for posting moms...everyday is a struggle.. It's hard not to lose it  😔
•    Anonymous said… We constantly have to remind ourselves that no one is perfect. The frustration can get off the charts but we love our kids and sometimes we have to go loud. You are not alone.
•    Anonymous said… You are definitely not alone and we are all only human


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Raising Kids on the Spectrum: Sensory Processing Difficulties, Behavioral Problems, and Parental Stress


A child's ability - or inability - to regulate sensation (i.e., the process of noticing, organizing, and integrating information from the environment and the body, and then processing and responding appropriately) significantly contributes to general behavior patterns. Problems with regulating sensory information (e.g., taste, sound, touch, smell, body movement, or body position) may lead to patterns of:
  • hypo-sensitivity or sensory-seeking behaviors (e.g., needing high levels of sensory input such as a loud noise, firm touch, repeatedly crashing into walls, banging toys in order to register the sensation, etc.)
  • hyper-sensitivity or sensory-avoidance (e.g., over-reacting to bright lights, loud noises, being held, etc.)
  • a mixed pattern of sensory-seeking and sensory-avoidance



Asperger's and High-Functioning Autistic kids with poor sensory regulation show a wide range of problems across several domains, including internalizing behavior problems, externalizing behavior problems, problems in many daily activities, and problems in emotional and attention regulation.

Here are some of the behavioral problems associated with sensory processing difficulties:
  • Academic problems: The youngster may have mild to severe learning disabilities, and problems with generalizing new concepts and skills.
  • Difficulties with self-regulation: The youngster may have difficulty with mood stability or maintaining an optimal level of arousal. She may be unable to calm herself down after an activity - or get herself going for an activity. Her arousal level may fluctuate minute-to-minute or day-to-day.
  • Difficulty with transitions: The youngster may throw a temper tantrum, be uncooperative, or experience heightened anxiety when stopping one activity and starting another. Also, he may have a difficult time leaving a particular place or going to the next task of the day (e.g., bath time, bed time, dinner, etc.).
  • Emotional problems: The youngster may have significant self-esteem issues, be overly-sensitive to criticism, transitions, or stressful situations. Also, she may have difficulty relating to others or understanding her own actions, motivation, or behavior.
  • Excessive energy level: The youngster may be unable to sit still, constantly on the run, or engage in risky behaviors.
  • Frequent hand switching: The youngster may not have a dominant hand for writing by age 5, may switch hands often while cutting or writing, or may throw a ball with both hands.
  • Impulsivity: The youngster may be unable to control impulses (e.g., to jump out of his seat) or his behavior. In addition, he may be aggressive or frequently "blurt" things out without thinking first.
  • Low energy level: The youngster may appear lethargic, uninterested in engaging in most activities, or be sedentary most of the day.
  • Low frustration tolerance: The youngster may become upset, yell or throw a temper tantrum at the slightest thing that does not go her way. She may give up on tasks easily if they are difficult for her.
  • Motor coordination problems: The youngster may appear clumsy, slouch, rest his head on his hands during desk work, exhibit awkward movements, or have frequent accidents.
  • Motor planning problems: The youngster may have difficulty with sports, riding a bike, doing jumping jacks, clapping, handwriting, balance, using eating utensils, or getting dressed.
  • Poor eye-hand coordination: The youngster may have sloppy handwriting, difficulty cutting or drawing a straight line, catching a ball, or tying shoes.
  • Resistance to the unfamiliar: The youngster may experience anxiety or refuse to meet new people, try new foods, participate in new activities, or sleep in a different environment.
  • Short attention span: The youngster may have difficulty concentrating on one activity or task for any length of time, and she be distracted by every sight, sound, smell, or movement she sees.
  • Social skills deficits: The youngster may have a difficult time relating to his peers and sharing. He may isolate, get aggressive, and be overpowering or bossy in order to help himself regulate and to control his sensory environment.
  • Uncooperative with activities of daily living: The youngster may have difficulty brushing his teeth, eating, participating in certain activities, getting dressed, going to bed, or taking a shower.

 ==> Parenting System That Reduces Meltdowns, Tantrums, Low-Frustration Tolerance, School-Related Behavior Problems, Sensory Sensitivities, Aggression, and Social-Skills Deficits

A child's sensory sensitivities will indeed affect his or her behavior and general temperament, but the reverse can also be true (i.e., the child's temperament may affect how well or poorly he/she deals with sensory sensitivities).

Here are 9 temperaments that may be associated with either sensory-seeking behaviors or sensory-avoidance:

1. Sensory Limit: This is related to how sensitive your youngster is to physical stimuli (e.g., sounds, tastes, touch, temperature changes, etc.), and refers to the amount of stimulation needed to elicit a response (positive or negative) in him or her. For example:
  • Is your youngster a picky eater, or will he eat almost anything?
  • Does he startle easily to sounds?
  • Does he respond positively or negatively to the feel of clothing? 
  • Does your youngster react positively or negatively to particular sounds?

2. Predictability: This trait refers to the regularity of biological functions (e.g., appetite and sleep). For example, does your youngster get hungry or tired at predictable times, or is he or she unpredictable in terms of hunger and tiredness?

3. Perseverance: This is the length of time your youngster persists in activities in the face of difficulty. For example:
  • Is she able to wait to have her needs met?
  • Does she react strongly when interrupted in an activity? 
  • Does she persist in an activity when she is asked to stop?
  • Does your youngster continue to work on a puzzle when she has problems with it, or does she just move on to another activity?

4. Disposition: This is the tendency to react to things primarily in either a positive or negative way. For example:
  • Is your youngster generally serious?
  • Is he generally in a happy mood, or does he tend to focus on the negative aspects of life? 
  • Does your youngster see the glass as half full? 
  • Does she focus on the positive aspects of life?

5. Emotional Energy Level: This is the intensity of a response, whether positive or negative. For example:
  • Does your youngster get upset in a very strong and dramatic way, or does he just get quiet when upset?
  • Does he react strongly and loudly to everything - even relatively minor events - or do most things seem to roll off of his back?

6. Physical Energy Level: This refers to how active your youngster is in general. For example:
  • Is he always on the go, or does he prefer sedentary quiet activities?
  • Is your child content to sit and quietly watch? 
  • Does she have difficulty sitting still? 
  • Does your child seem to always wiggle, squirm or pace?

7. Attention Level: This is the degree of concentration and paying attention exhibited when your youngster is not particularly interested in an activity. This characteristic refers to the ease with which external stimuli hampers the ongoing behavior. For example:
  • Does he or she become sidetracked easily when attempting to follow routine or working on some activity?
  • Is your child easily distracted by sounds or sights?
  • Is your child easily soothed when upset by being offered an alternate activity?

8. Approach/Withdrawal: This refers to the youngster’s typical response to strangers or a new situation. For example, does she eagerly approach new situations or people, or does she seem hesitant and resistant when faced with new situations, people or things?

9. Flexibility: This is related to how easily the youngster adapts to changes and transitions (e.g., switching to a new activity). For example:
  • Does he take a long time to become comfortable in new situations?
  • Does he have difficulty with changes in routines, or with transitions from one activity to another?

Sensory processing difficulties in kids on the autism spectrum often have a significant impact on the parent-child relationship. A child experiencing these difficulties can react to his parents or his environment in ways that are unpredictable or seemingly irrational. For instance, a youngster who is overly-sensitive to stimuli can react negatively to the parent's voice or touch. As a result, the parent can be confused by the youngster’s reactions, which may result in the parent feeling a sense of incompetence in his or her parenting skills.

Moms and dads of kids with sensory processing difficulties report higher levels of parenting stress than parents of "typical" children. As sensory processing difficulties increase in severity, so does the level of parental stress.

Most parents that see a significant reduction in (a) sensory processing difficulties, (b) resultant behavioral issues, and (c) parental stress identify the sensory issues their child is experiencing fairly quickly – and treat it soon after identification (usually via occupational therapy).



Single-Parenting Children With Aspergers/High-Functioning Autism

One of the most difficult roles a mother or father will ever assume is that of the single parent. It doesn't matter how you arrived at that point – divorced, widowed, or single by choice – it is a daily challenge. When a mother or father is a single parent and there is a youngster with Aspergers or 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, however.

Although raising children always has challenges, single parenting a child with Aspergers or HFA can be extremely stressful – as well as rewarding. Finding solutions to most of the problems is the first step toward keeping the parent 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. There are some issues that every single parent needs to be aware. Working on the solutions before they become problems can greatly reduce parental stress.

Tips for single parents with Aspergers and HFA children:

1. Arm yourself with information. Read everything you can about your youngster’s disorder. Most libraries have a parenting section with books on raising kids with special needs. 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. Also, many of the websites that focus on childhood disorders will mail information to parents for free or for a very nominal charge. Be sure to consult your youngster’s doctor regarding the information you find. Being informed is the best offense in managing the daily and long-term challenges of parenting a youngster with Aspergers. Know what you need and pursue it.

2. Avoid being competitive with your ex. It won’t get you anywhere. You may not be able to compete with taking the children to Disney World. But children don’t necessarily love the one who gives the bigger presents more.

3. Be your youngster’s best advocate. No one can - or will ever - care more about a youngster and his/her well-being than the parent(s). As such, it is squarely on the parents’ shoulders to fight for the best information, treatment, doctors, and options that exist. Familiarize yourself with the law. Every parent has to be his/her own researcher.

4. Consider 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.

5. Control your reactions. Your Aspergers youngster 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 Aspie, and leaves you feeling better, too.

6. Don’t block your feelings. Recognize that ALL your feelings are normal. Be sad. Be mad. It’s only natural.

7. Don’t play the blame game. Your youngster’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. You will need to lean on one another for support, and blame can only damage your relationship.

8. Everyone needs a social life, and a single parent of a youngster with Aspergers is no exception. In addition to caring for your son or daughter, 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. You may have other obligations, too (e.g., school, church, community activities, etc.). 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 (e.g., hiking, biking, dancing, card games, movies, eating out, etc.). The key is having fun interaction with other adults. Grown-ups who do not spend time with their “buddies” begin to resent their schedule, their lives, and possibly their kids. It is normal to feel that way, and the best way to avoid the problem is to schedule time to socialize.

9. Find some kind of 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.

10. Focus on personal growth. So much of being a parent 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 or go back to something you gave up in your marriage (e.g., rediscovered the love of hiking, or learn how to play a musical instrument). Put yourself out there. Try anything creative.

11. Focus on stress management. When harried and stressed, single parents 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 parent and his/her family. Therefore, taking a proactive stance on stress management is quite important. Having several quick stress relievers on hand (e.g., breathing exercises, reframing techniques, having different/positive ways of looking at a stressful situation, etc.), as well as long-term stress management strategies in place (e.g., regular exercise, meditation, a hobby, a supportive social circle, etc.) can relieve significant stress for single parents.

12. Hopefully you have been able to create a good working relationship with your ex for the benefit of your youngster. If not, and the sparks fly very time you see each other, it would be wise to consult a counselor. Even if the relationship with your ex has no chance in the world of being civil, there needs to be a peaceful environment for the youngster.

13. Kids with Aspergers 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 moms and dads 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, can prevent this. Remember that although your relationship may be over, the relationship both of you have with your youngster is not.

14. Know that you are not alone. Having an Aspergers or 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. Form your own groups, if none exist.

15. Learn to 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. Don’t date too soon. You can fall in love too quickly. You can’t be a great parent unless you are a great person.

16. Minimize the tough times. Holidays are hard when you don’t have your special needs child because he or she is visiting the other parent, so make a plan. Know you will feel bad – and know it will end.

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

18. One major advantage that married couples have is companionship. There’s nothing like being with a spouse who knows and understands the daily problems you encounter. Having someone you can vent your frustrations to keeps one mentally healthy. It is human nature to want to share. 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 parents might be helpful. Some support groups have a network of parents who are on “phone duty” that you can call at any time when you need to talk or vent your emotions.

19. Sometimes, 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 grandchild, you can and should limit your own time with them for your own sanity.

20. You can never take a day off from being a parent, and you may not be able to take a day off from work whenever you like, but there are things you can give yourself a day off from. Next time you're feeling particularly stressed, messed up, tired out or done in, declare a day off from:
  • Being behavior cop
  • Being SuperMom or SuperDad
  • Caring what other people think
  • Doing research
  • Fighting battles
  • Filling out forms
  • Handling details
  • Holding it in
  • Knowing it all
  • Making appointments
  • Making phone calls
  • Multitasking
  • Planning ahead
  • Saying the right thing
  • Serving as case manager
  • Solving problems
  • Working out
  • Worrying

Special Offer for Single Parents of Kids on the Autism Spectrum


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… Thanks for the reminders. So easy to forget to take time for yourself with everything going on and being the only parent holding things together.
•    Anonymous said… I wouldn't wish single parenthood on my worst enemy because it is so hard. However, I think it's far more important to be the most positive, most enthusiastic cheerleader and champion for my son to help him be the best that he can be. No role model is better in my mind than a bad role model. It's difficult enough being a parent, but having a child on the spectrum is an added challenge. I can't be a basket case because of being the mom my son needs and trying to juggle a relationship that doesn't support or promote my abilities as a mother for my children.
•    Anonymous said… I know what you mean. A child with asbergers requires so much attention because they aren't able to socialize Knowing that a parent is always there for them makes them feel more secure. I'm the same. I've been divorced for 12 years and haven't had a relationship since. Because I've made my son feel so secure growing up at 21 he is thriving in his 3rd year of universtiy away from home. He has his twin sister nearby for companionship, he speaks to me on the phone for an hour each day and he comes home every five to six weeks for a week. He hasn't made any friends at university because he's just not able to but he knows we are always there for him. It's extremely important for kids/adults with asbergers to know you've got their back 100%.
•    Anonymous said… I am the single parent to two children on the spectrum. I find being a single parent far easier than when I was married. I am utterly focused on the boys. There is no, and there will be no, relationship to try and juggle alongside. I'm mum. I'm not wife. Everything is about the boys. Our relationship is so much stronger and it's the three of us. I much prefer single parenthood.

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