19 April 2010

Autism and the Family

As Seen in the Battlefords News Optimist.

April is Autism Awareness month. April 2 was World Autism Awareness day. I was not made aware of this until a friend of mine wrote about autism and her family on her blog. One thing she was grateful for was that it was one of her youngest children who had autism, since there were more societal supports, than had it been one of her oldest children.

There was a study done in 2006, about marriages and autism. It estimated that the divorce rate is 80 per cent among couples with autistic children. The main stressor being that the couple does not reach out for support.
Another stressor is, families are all about communication, husband to wife, parent to child, brother to sister, and so on. Whereas autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are about miscommunication. Not understanding social cues, problems in communication, and such. These therefore affect the family’s mode of communication.
Usually for the mother, there are feelings of guilt. That she might have done something wrong during pregnancy, such as drinking or taking medications, to exercising too much, to getting the child vaccinated. Creating more stress to an already stressful situation.

However, with those stats, and thoughts, one thing is becoming more prevalent in the 21st century, and that is services to the family. Even if adequate services can’t be found in a community, we live in a digital age. Parents struggling with an autistic child can connect with other parents, and discuss how each of them manages their stress. Therefore creating a support system.
There are plenty of books out there to help as well. A book that just came out that I recommend is “41 Things to Know About Autism” by Chantal Sicile-Kira. In her book she talks about the signs, symptoms, behaviours, and effects of autism on the family and the individual.

The most important thing for the parents, is to have time alone. Nurture and cherish your marriage. Together you are source of support for your child than apart. You need time off. Find a baby-sitter that you trust and can rely on. Also, both of you need to realize that each of react differently to stress.

A little side note for dad. Men typically tend to deal with this situation by working longer hours in order to earn more. The motive is noble, but your child needs you. They need quality and quantity time with dad. You need to become more involved, if you are not already. Mom usually becomes the expert on autism in the family. Dad, try to take more time out to learn exactly what your child is going through so that you can assist your wife.

For more information, check out these organizations: Talk About Curing Autism, National Autism Association, Autism Speaks, and the Autism Society Canada.

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