For parents and families, there is no question that the experience of raising and living with a child with ASD is different than it would be with a child without ASD. Naturally, this special situation has its own particular set of difficulties and challenges, but it also brings in turn many unique opportunities and rewards.
Family Dynamics – Tips for the Whole Family
The entire family, from parents and siblings to extended family members, is affected when a child is diagnosed with ASD. Following the diagnosis, family issues which commonly arise include the need to adjust parental expectations, worries about the effects on the child’s siblings, strain on the marriage, and general questions of how best to support each other inside the family and where to turn for external support.
Fortunately, there are a great many resources available which can help families at any stage of their child’s life. ASD advocacy organizations offer a wide range of educational material, as well as support with learning about subjects like special education and disability benefits. In addition, community support groups, both online and in person, offer families the chance to connect with others in the same situation and learn from the experiences of those with older children with ASD.
There are also a number of suggestions the whole family can follow that can help create a more accepting, relaxed, and positive dynamic in a home that includes someone with ASD. For parents of a child with ASD, it is important to be informed about ASD and advocate for the child, to talk about feelings rather than pushing them away, to maintain an adult life which includes time alone, and to focus on the child’s accomplishments and take pride in what they can achieve. Siblings are also encouraged to be proud of their brother or sister with ASD, to find a special activity to do together, to learn how to talk comfortably about ASD with their friends, and to make sure to spend time alone with their parents. For grandparents and other extended family members, suspending judgment and asking how to be of help is very valuable, as is learning more about ASD and setting aside special time both for a child with ASD and his or her siblings.
What Makes it Special
Some of the things that make the experience of having a family member with ASD challenging are the very things that make it special. It is an educational opportunity: part of learning how to accept a child with ASD is learning a great deal about varied subjects like how our brains work, our country’s systems and resources for people with disabilities, and advocacy techniques. It is a window onto a different way of seeing the world: understanding and accepting a family member with ASD means learning to see things from their point of view, and questioning your own habits and assumptions. It is a new community: through living with someone with ASD, you will meet a whole range of people, from caregivers and educators to people with many different types of ASD, which you would not have otherwise encountered. Finally, it is a chance to define your own relationship: because children with ASD do not often conform to typical expectations of what a sibling, child, or grandchild is, that allows the space to create your own unique relationship together, one that works for you and isn’t based on what others think it should be.