Common Stressors of Caregivers with an Autistic Child
When a family receives a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) for their child, there may be many ideas “flying around” in the caregiver’s head. This can cause a lot of stress that is very different for families with a neurotypical child face. It may be easy to get lost in the thick of it all or seem like they are alone. That is not the case. There are many other families that are going through these same stressors. We have compiled a list of common stressors caregivers with an autistic child may face and some ideas for coping.
- Social Acceptance
Every parent wants their child to be accepted socially. They may dream their child will have a “normal” life filled with friends, birthday parties, and relationships with significant others. Try to identify your child’s interests and help foster those interests and friends. Try not to feel the pressure to fill your child’s life with “normal” interactions, and encourage individuality in their relationships.
- Understanding Needs
There is not a handbook for being a caregiver of an autistic child. Yes, there are a number of different books and resources you can access, but not every child is the same. Each child has a set of unique needs and it is up to the caregiver to identify those needs and act accordingly. Again, encourage your child and support their individuality.
- Reliable Support System
It is beyond important for the caregiver to have support outside of the family, however, caring for an autistic child takes up a great deal of energy and time. It can be hard to find a reliable support system because of this. Seek out others who are in your situation to get support and feedback, however, also seek out people who are in different situations to give you a chance to cultivate your own interests and feelings.
The cost associated with caring for an autistic child is a lot! Talk to your partner to plan for finances and discuss plans for your child’s future. Seek out programs that are supported through insurance or waiver programs to help support your child’s care.
- Access Quality Support
An autistic child will require a lot of support. This can include academic, emotional, communication, and transition support. It is one thing to access this support, but another thing to access quality support. Ask for resources, and talk to families in your community who have been provided services to get their feedback. If you feel like your child is not receiving quality care, do not hesitate to change services.
- Sibling and Family Understanding
Siblings and other family members often have a hard time accepting and/or understanding what it means to be autistic or have an autistic child. Siblings may not understand why their siblings are different or are treated differently. Create a space for open conversations in your family. Talk about the challenges and joys of having an Autistic family member. Make sure to check in with family members to ensure they are receiving the support they need as well, including yourself!
- Trips and Life Experiences
Family trips are like a right of passage, however, it is not always easy to take a lot of trips or certain trips. Take enough time to plan appropriately. Call ahead to see what services are available for your family, and whether there are sensory activities that your child and family may enjoy. Plan extra time for activities and don’t try to plan too many activities for your trip. “Lower” your expectations from a “trip of a lifetime” to a fun family activity!
No one stays a child forever. This brings us to the adulthood stressor. Caregivers may ask “What happens when they get older?” It is never too early to think about what will happen as your child gets older. Are there specific goals you want your therapists to work on that can help give them independence? Talk with your family members on your plans and include them in the conversations as your child gets older and gains more skills.
- The Child
No one is a perfect caregiver and it is okay to admit your child stresses you out. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Being a caregiver is not an easy job, however, being a caregiver with an autistic child is a whole different ball game. The 10 stressors previously discussed are not a comprehensive list and there are so many other stressors faced by caregivers with an autistic child. It is important to know the stressor, create an action plan, and implement that plan as needed.
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