What is autism?
Getting to know that your child has autism can be disheartening — probably one of the most difficult things you’ll ever hear. You might deny it, get angry, or even cry. Many questions may go through your head — What do I do next? How can I help my child?You’ve probably imagined your child’s whole future. But now that everything has changed, how do you cope?
Your first step should be learning what autism is exactly. Autism is a developmental disorder that encompasses a variety of symptoms like communication difficulties, behavioral challenges, and social interaction problems.
Though there's no textbook description of autism, your child might have symptoms that are either subtle or very noticeable.
The best source to get any information about autism is from your child's doctor. They will direct you to literature and organizations where you can learn about autism and what to expect going forward.
Balancing autism with other related problems
Families with a child who has autism have many stresses — including the changes that need to be made to the child's routine. These stresses can be overwhelming and affect your energy, time, relationships, and finances.
Maintain energy levels
Your emotions will be in overdrive when caring for your child with autism. Between juggling your child’s care, working, and running your household, you’ll be exhausted not just mentally but also physically. Collapsing from exhaustion will only affect your child negatively. So, make sure you get enough sleep and exercise to keep your body and mind sharp.
Bide your time
Depending on the severity of their autism, your child may need lots of care and attention. You and your family will benefit from a routine. You and your family can learn how to operate on a schedule to suit your child's needs. This will allow for organization and order in your household. A regular, predictable schedule will allow your child to feel more at ease.
Don't forget about other relationships
Though you'll want to devote all of your attention to your child with autism, don't forget about the other relationships that you have.
If you have a spouse or a domestic partner, then you may feel your relationship become tense. Maybe you don’t spend much time with each other or maybe you are both nervous about the extra bills piling up on the counter. You can’t forget to take time for yourselves and lean on them for support. And if you communicate with your spouse or partner and work together as a team and share responsibilities, you'll be less stressed.
If you have other children, you must pay attention to them as well. Try to include them in family conversations, and make sure they don't feel like they are less important.
Be aware of the financial worries and work on resolving them
Many families who have a child with autism find themselves with financial difficulties. If you had to take time off work, then there's less income. If you need more therapy sessions or evaluations for your child, these bills might come out of your own pocket. Soon you may see bills start to stack up.
Nonetheless, remember to relax. Look to see if you should adjust your household budget to consider your finances.
Remember — you are not alone
You may start feeling isolated and that no one knows what you’re going through. But, know that you are not alone.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It'll be helpful to speak with someone who knows exactly what you're going through.
Your city or town may have an outreach program for families with a child with autism. There you can get help and advice from doctors and specialists. You can also join a support group with other parents who have children with autism. You can learn more about how to cope with your child's autism, share stories, and become part of a community.
The future is bright
Autism changes your view on the future. But that future is still there — it just looks a little different than what you'd pictured.
By taking care of yourself and your family, you can also help your child. There's a lot of help available to family members of children with autism — you'll never be alone. And with you taking care of your child, they'll never be alone.
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Center for Disease Control and Prevention: "What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?"
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