Dealing with the Emotional, Physical, and Financial Burdens of Autism
Question: Because my husband works during the day, I'm the one driving my son to all his therapies and taalking to all the clinicians who work with him. So when we need to work with him at home or when he's being disruptive and needs intervention, my husband always says, "You're the one who knows what to do." I'm tired of being the only expert in the family, but I have to admit it's hard trying to explain in detail what we're supposed to do. How can I make this more equal?
Often, the parent who's around more will acquire more strategies for dealing with the child with autism, which can set up a cycle the more she learns, the more she's called upon to do; the more expert she becomes, the more she continues to do. Your husband may genuinely feel like he's not as knowledgeable or capable as you when it comes to dealing with your child, but that doesn't mean he should excuse himself it means he should catch up.
Schedule some one-on-one time for him with a therapist you both like on the weekend or in the evening, so he can learn successful strategies for dealing with your child. Then make sure he spends some time with your child each week as well, doing activities that are fun for both of them. We worked with one family whose child needed to develop socially. When we planned indoor activities, the father always got "tied up at work," but when we tried planning outdoor activities a visit to the park or a hike he never missed a single one.
Remember that it's often difficult for one parent to "teach" the other all the strategies that come along, and depending on your relationship, it may strain the marriage to have one always dictating to the other. It's far better for you both if you're equally capable of interacting successfully with your child.
Question: I've accepted the fact that my daughter has autism and am ready to get started helping her, but my husband is furious that anyone would slap a label on a two-year-old child. He says she's just delayed and will catch up. What am I supposed to do?
You don't need to get your husband to accept a diagnosis, but you do need him to recognize that your child needs intervention to help with her symptoms. If he's uncomfortable with the term autism, don't feel you need to use it. He has already acknowledged that she has delays, so point out that it can't hurt to address those delays in a thoughtful manner, and it will definitely help. Together, you can identify the symptoms that are worrisome and ask the experts you've been seeing to recommend strategies that will help her overcome them.
If you both stay focused on the symptoms, you'll get the right results in the end, without having to stress about labels.
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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