Coping Tips for Parents of Children with Autism
When a child is diagnosed with a disability, you would expect society to rush in and help. But that doesn't happen. Parents are usually left alone, without support or guidance, to figure the whole thing out. Children with disabilities are excluded from community schools, activities, and social events on a regular basis. In fact, I've been told by some families that their children are even excluded from family gatherings.
It's not surprising, then, that many parents feel alone and isolated when their child gets a diagnosis of autism. Not only can there be very real social exclusion, but there's an emotional isolation as well. Parents feel alone in their grief. They have spent the last few years going on outings and interacting with friends whose children are developing typically, and now they are devastated by the fact that their own child has significant disabilities in a variety of areas.
Rather than continue to socialize as normally as possible, some parents will go out of their way to avoid having to compare their child to their friends' children, frequently declining invitations to parties and outings. The fewer invitations they accept, the fewer their chances to connect with friends and realize they can still enjoy themselves.
Similarly, many parents allow their fears of how their child might act out in public to prevent them from leaving the house. This starts a bad cycle: the child is isolated socially and therefore doesn't learn to behave in social situations; as his behavior in social situations deteriorates, the parents feel even more compelled to stay at home. And so on. Meanwhile, the parents are losing touch with their friends and relatives, and their feelings of emotional isolation increase until they feel truly abandoned.
If your child has behaviors that make it difficult to go out in public, read the chapter in this book on disruptive behaviors and start getting control of the problem behaviors. Try to create as many positive social opportunities as you can, so your child can learn and grow. Meanwhile, find someone to help you out now and then, so you and your spouse can still go out together.
More on: Learning Differences
From Overcoming Autism by Lynn Kern Koegel, Ph.D. and Claire LaZebnik. Copyright © 2004. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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