Caring for Caregivers
Once you begin to notice minor problems or deviations in the development and behaviors of your beloved child, you would first go to your pediatrician. Based on a series of tests and assessments if your child is diagnosed with Autism or to lie somewhere on the Autism spectrum, you as parents go through a major turmoil of emotions. Proper guidance is required for you to be able to give the best for your child's future.
Not only does "autism" alter the emotional dynamics between your child and you, but it also stresses the emotional dialogues between you and your family. We believe parents and the family members require to be emotionally prepared to accept the diagnosis and to carry their child through this "special" journey. You must understand and see the "special" needs of their child with autism. Devoted support from caregivers (you and the family members) is crucial for an improved quality of life and attempting to normalize this "given" situation.
What are the signs of stress or anxiety that a parent could undergo?
• Feeling tired throughout the day.
• Sleeping for more or less time and feeling drowsy during the day.
• Not taking proper care of oneself i.e. putting on too much weight or losing weight drastically.
• Loss of interest in activities or situation in which, one was interested in before.
• Undergoing behavioural and emotional changes like increased irritability, anger issues or frustration.
• Unable to, think clearly or take proper decisions.
• Due to behavioural and emotional changes, overall negative changes in the family
How can I accept the fact that my child has Autism?
The first question that usually arises in a parent's mind whose child is diagnosed with autism, "Isn't my child Normal?" Parents usually find it extremely difficult to accept the fact that their child has autism. The process of acceptance is painful and difficult.
However, it is important that the parents move on from their grieving period of accepting the fact to the well being of the child. Below mentioned are a few tips for the parents:
• It is important to identify your child's strengths and limitations.
• Your focus should be to maximize your child's level of independence and not focus on how to make him "normal". Don't compare him/her with other children.
• Educate yourself thoroughly about his condition.
What are the strategies that one could use have a balanced state of mind?
It is very important that once you get to know your child's problem you start off with the treatment. If you know that your child is engaged in meaningful activities, you will be more able to focus on moving forward. It could also give you some free time to educate yourself and help you to take care of yourself.
Ask for help:
It could be very difficult to ask for help initially. However, don't hesitate to use support and it's very important to communicate what help you exactly needs. For example: Hiring a maid makes more sense than wasting time into household work, rather you could invest that time into teaching your child or may be time for yourself like exercising.
Use school hours:
Take advantage of school hours and use the opportunity to meet your relatives, family members or friends. Plan quality time together with your spouse for example; lunch with him when your child is at the school.
Take a break:
Try and schedule your time in such a way that you are left with sometime for yourself. If possible, take time off and go for shopping or to the parlour, visit a friend, etc. Do not feel guilty about the break and try to remind yourself that it will help you to be renewed for the things you need to do when you get back. If you are getting regular sleep, you will be prepared to make good decisions, be more patient with your child and deal with the stress in your life.
Maintain a dairy:
Louis DeSalvo, in Writing as a Way of Healing, notes that studies have shown that "writing that describes traumatic events and our deepest thoughts and feelings about them is linked with improved immune function, improved emotional and physical health," and positive behavioural changes.
Refrain from exaggerating:
Refrain from constantly talking about autism to your family, siblings, friends or spouse, and rather spend quality time with people around you. Be careful to not let autism consume every waking hour of your life. Everyone in your family needs support and to be happy despite the circumstances.
It is very important that you talk about your feelings and emotions that you are going through. It is important to vent out your thoughts at regular interval of time. Especially someone who just listens could be a great source of strength.
Take help of a professional:
If you feel that you are unable to cope up with things around and your stress or anxiety levels have increased or you are starting to show depressive symptoms (like crying spells, change in sleep or appetite, loss of interest, etc) seek help of a professional. Counseling session for you or your spouse or the entire family may help.
Join support groups:
You could join support groups which are for children with autism and their parents. It may be helpful to listen or talk to people who have been or are going through a similar situation. Also, support groups could be a great source of information about the servies available in your area or about the new possible treatment options available. For many parents being associated to a support group could provide valuable hope, comfort and encouragement.
"Remember that if you want to take the best possible care of your child, you must first take the best possible care of yourself".