Support for parents with autistic children

Research shows that life is often challenging for the parents of an autistic child. Although there are moments of great joy, studies have revealed that although the parents of any disabled child can suffer from stress, those with a child on the autism spectrum are most likely to struggle with both emotional and physical turmoil.

Parents have spoken of their constant worries; they feel like they’re fighting for services, sacrificing their jobs and falling into debt and they are often left experiencing anger and even guilt, wondering if they could have done anything to prevent their child from being autistic.

father and daughter

Main challenges of autism

One of the main challenges faced by parents of an autistic child is on a social level. While all parents strive to enjoy a loving relationship with their child, they are bewildered and hurt to discover he or she doesn’t like to be held or hugged.

Most autistic children have a behavioural problem of some kind; whether it’s a refusal to sleep or severe tantrums that make day-to-day life more difficult.

It can become a vicious circle, with the child’s behaviour causing more stress for the parents, who in turn can’t deal with the situation. This can make the child’s behaviour get even worse as the parents cope in a less effective manner.

Seeking support and realising they’re not alone is the best way for both the parents and children to lead fuller lives. There are various types of support available, including:

  • Support websites offering forums and advice
  • Local support groups
  • Meeting other local parents who have autistic children

 
Most parents of autistic children will say it “doesn’t matter” how they feel, as long as their child is being taken care of.

However, although this sentiment is understandable it can also be counter-productive, as the family is a unit – how each individual feels or behaves will have an impact on the other members. Reducing the parents’ stress and thus improving their ability to cope is something that helps both the parents and the children alike.

Support websites

There are a number of websites offering support, including the National Autistic Society, where parents and carers can find useful advice on many topics, including:

  • Employment and employment support services
  • Benefits and social care support
  • Managing your money
  • Schools and services
  • Strategies and approaches
  • Lists of all the support groups in each area

 

The charity, Child Autism UK, also runs a website that provides advice, support and services for children with autism; helping them to achieve their full potential. It provides strategies and techniques to help families overcome communication difficulties, teaching them life skills to help them face the challenges of having an autistic child.

The NHS website also has a section offering useful advice on autism. It includes links to other relevant information sites on its NHS Choices network.

Local support groups

Support groups can provide members with several benefits, including the provision of information and also alleviating the feelings of loneliness and isolation felt by many parents of autistic children. Parents can find out about any new professional help that might be available or they can discuss options such as respite care or any other local family support.

Meeting other local parents

By meeting other families in similar situations, parents of an autistic child can learn about new strategies that have helped. Simply having a chat about their challenges to a listening ear and relieving their stress by talking to someone who understands can help enormously.
 
Autism is a spectrum disorder, so each family’s experiences are likely to vary. In particular, parents and carers of children with severe autism may find it very challenging to cope with behavioural issues alone in their home. Realising that help is available and more importantly, reaching out to accept that help, is the first step towards leading a more fulfilling life – for both the parents and the child.

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