Home > School and Learning > Learning Differences > Autism > Coping Tips for Parents of Children with Autism

Coping Tips for Parents of Children with Autism

There are increasing numbers of multiple children with autism in the same family, and it's logical to try to think where the genetic mix-up could have been, but too often family research turns into family blame. I can't tell you how often I've sat in my office and had one parent tell me that the other parent has symptoms of autism – I've even had both parents tell me, confidentially, that their spouses have symptoms of autism!

You know what? We all have symptoms of autism – each symptom falls on a continuum, and somewhere on that continuum it turns from typical to a disability. A husband who bites his fingernails or doesn't particularly enjoy socializing isn't necessarily genetically responsible for producing a child who rocks back and forth constantly. And a mother who has trouble expressing her emotions and likes to sit in a rocking chair isn't necessarily genetically responsible for a child who fixates on spinning fans.

I would guess that almost every family has some member with mental disabilities in its lineage. While assessing these issues may be helpful in genetic planning, playing the blame game doesn't help your child get the help he needs – nor does it help your marriage in any way. The last thing your spouse needs is to feel like he's done something wrong in mating with you. You had children together because you loved each other.

Having a child is always a gamble. Sometimes a child is born with a disability. That's the harsh reality. Passing around blame is an emotionally harmful game that serves no useful function.

Some parents feel angry when their child is diagnosed with autism. I met with one family whose four-year-old son had just been diagnosed with mild autism, and the dad sat in the corner, arms crossed, glaring at me throughout our first session. Not long after, he realized that I was doing my best to help his son, but at that point he just felt angry, and I was the nearest target.

Anger isn't always a waste of time. A friend of mine once pointed out that people who get angry under adverse situations and who channel that angry energy toward appropriate and useful action will often succeed where others fail. I'm all in favor of the kind of anger that makes you say, "We're going to lick this thing!" But anger that just makes you sullen and resentful toward people who are trying to help you is working against you.

Next: Isolation >>

From Overcoming Autism by Lynn Kern Koegel, Ph.D. and Claire LaZebnik. Copyright 2004. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, click here or on the book cover. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks

family games

Everything you need for family game night!


The Latest and Greatest Book for Kids
Search our interactive Book Finder for the top new books for kids of all ages, brought to you by the latest book in the I, Funny series, "I Totally Funniest."

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

Top 10 Wintertime Neighborhood Games
Who says you have to stay inside when the temperature drops? Snowy weather is a great excuse to round up your neighborhood for some outdoor winter fun and games.

2015 Family-Friendly Oscar Nominees
The Oscar nominations are in, and they include several family-friendly movies. See which flicks earned a nod for Best Animated Feature Film and other awards.