Common Autism Recovery Mistakes and How to Avoid Them - Part 3
In Part 1 I talked about the beginning of the journey with your child, and in Part 2 I focused on what happens with them during childhood. But what about the rest of your family? This isn’t happening just to your child. It’s happening to your family.
9. A husband can take care of himself
Mothers, I am writing to you. When we swing into action on behalf of our child, it is very easy to forget about everything else. You may have disagreements about the direction that your treatment program is taking, finances, diet, personnel in the program, discipline; you name it, and begin to avoid talking just to circumvent your husband and his opinion. This is a mistake.
The aura of discomfort, or outright arguing and hostility deeply impacts your child who is taking in every word and every interaction, although they appear to be in their own world or cannot comment.
Bottom line: it took two people to make your special child and it will take those two people to show them the way to recovery. Each of you has something important to contribute to the process and your child needs to be surrounded by love, optimism and joy. Don’t leave your once-vibrant relationship with your husband sitting like an untended garden, full of weeds and thorns.
10. This is my wife’s gig
Fathers, I am writing to you. Your wife is grateful that you have a job and do your very best to provide for your family’s needs. You work extra hard to afford organic, non-GMO, gluten-free food and buy loads of supplements. But, she needs a break occasionally to take care of her own physical and mental health.
Encourage her to go for a walk, and make time for her to have a break by being there yourself. You might spend your vacation day doing “her work” or have to wake up early on the weekend so she can go and exercise. But, consider this an investment in her emotional bank account, which may be severely drained. Living in a constant state of stress is a health risk over the long term. Take care of each other.
Bottom line, dads: your wife is the thermostat in your home, but you set the temperature. You choose warm or cold by the way you treat her. Keep it warm.
11. We must stop having children
This is a touchy subject, because there are families who have multiple children affected with autism or a combination of autism and other immune dysfunctions like PANDAS/PANS. It is tough, no doubt!
Bottom line: every child is a gift and if you desire more children, having one with autism should not cause you to fear a future pregnancy. A sibling is also a gift to your child with autism. Take steps toward taking care of your health prior to and during pregnancy so that the next baby has an optimal chance of thriving.
12. Siblings aren't really a part of the recovery process
If you have other children, no matter the birth order in relation to your child with special needs, they need to be a part of the team. Most children outlive their parents, so there is a real possibility that care or decision-making for your child with autism may eventually be in the hands of a sibling.
While that is in the future, a sibling can be your child’s best friend, playmate, helper and model starting right now. When your child with autism is able to hold joint attention with an adult and is demonstrating some flexibility, this is a good time to introduce a sibling to the play. This should always be supervised and mediated, at least in the beginning.
Adding a sibling to a music therapy session is great fun for everyone. Monitor your own attitude closely, and be mindful of your own heavy sighs, eye rolling, or expressions of frustration, because brothers and sisters see and hear everything! The attitude you model will be their attitude in the future.
There are many ways a sibling can help, but don’t forget that everyone in your home should get what they need, including some undivided attention. That means one parent takes a sibling out to do something they would enjoy, the zoo, a ball game, a dinner out, while the other parent stays home with the child with autism. Taking turns is a great way to make sure all your children get what they need.
Bottom line: Siblings have their own feelings about their brother or sister with autism. Talk to them about it. Make a note of their observations, which are often quite keen. They tend to have greater empathy than most people who don’t grow up knowing about autism and often go into caretaking careers as adults. You have the power to model a positive attitude and optimistic, loving, non-judgmental outlook for all your children.
Everyone’s journey is different. Please share your own advice and experiences from your journey in the comments.