For any family dealing with a child or family members living with a disability, stress is an inevitable occurrence in their lives. This fact is even more apparent for families with members diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Studies have shown that parents taking care of children with ASD experience higher levels of stress than parents dealing with children with other disabilities. Another study shows that parental stress is a predictor of behavioral issues in children with the disability, making it very clear that the parent’s mindset can adversely affect the treatment and continued growth of their child.
It’s important that we understand where these stresses can come from and how to deal with them in a healthy way. These causes can be personal, familial, and external and dealing with each of them has its own sets of challenges.
Table of Content
- The Stress of Perception
- The Stress of Caretaking
- The Stress Upon Siblings
- Financial Stress
- List of Events throughout Canada
The Stress of Perception
Autism Spectrum Disorder is often thought of as a severe disability that is only ever a negative. It’s not difficult to have this mindset as the disorder does cause a significant change in the parents’ lives as well as their expectations for their children. This leads to emotional stress caused by deep feeling of regret that parents may feel that their child can never live a “normal” life like the majority.
However, there are a number of significant positives to a child living with ASD: the child’s particular interest leads to expertise in that area; they are more keen when it comes to smaller details; and their bluntness leads to refreshing honesty.
It’s easy to focus upon the constant need for care and guidance and the need to teach them basic skills that “normal” folks are already accustomed to. But to simply view that side of it will only serve to stress a parent out more and is doing a disservice to a child with amazing potential.
The Stress of Caretaking
Parenting is already a full time job, one further exacerbated by the unique needs of taking care of a child with ASD. This can lead to sleepless nights and exhausting days that further adds to the normal, everyday stresses of modern life. Caretaker burnout causes apathy, anxiety, and depression which leads to an overall lowering in the quality of care that a parent can render for their child.
The parent’s own physical and mental health is paramount in order to maintain consistent, positive care for their child. It’s okay to be a little selfish; to take some time out of the day alone to recenter and remind the parent that they’ve been doing their best. It’s also important to remember that they don’t have to be alone in the care of their child. There is sometimes the mindset that parents should be the sole caretakers and advocates for their children. While it is true that parents are probably the best at taking care of their own children, letting family members and friends care for their child with ASD is totally fine when you need to take a break.
Support groups can also be a very useful tool for parents seeking advice from people with more experience taking care of children with disabilities. These gatherings can allow parents a healthy, safe way of processing the hardships and stresses of caretaking.
The Stress Upon Siblings
For families with multiple children, it’s often overlooked that the siblings of children with ASD also have their own stresses to worry about. Things that while adults may not find important, are significant to their own lives and social circles. Being inconsiderate of these can lead to significant strain in the relationship between the siblings, and between the children without ASD and their parents who they may feel are focusing on their autism sibling too much. Most of these stresses upon the siblings of the family can be alleviated by helping them understand the nature of Autism Spectrum Disorder and how it affects their sibling.
Integrating siblings into the care and support structure of the child with ASD can help ease parental stress, can be a way for siblings to strengthen bonds as well as let them become advocates for their autism sibling to their own social circles, increasing awareness of the condition. There are resources available for parents who want to pursue this as well.
The care of a child with ASD comes with it financial stress as well. The need for appropriate behavioral therapies can be a significant strain on the financial stability of the family. That’s even before accounting for the fact that in the process of taking care of their child will take over time that would have otherwise been spent earning money. Not to mention planning for the financial future of the child as well.
The financial costs of taking care of a child on the spectrum is possibly the most visible source of stress for the family. For Canadians, these stresses can somewhat be alleviated by a number of government programs:
- The Disability Tax Credit is available for parents seeking to recoup some of the costs of caring for their child by reducing the amount of income tax they need to pay.
- The Child Disability Benefit is an extension of the already existing Canada Child Benefit meant to assist parents in providing further care needed for their children.
- The Registered Disability Savings Plan allows parents the opportunity to plan financially for their child’s future.
The careful management of stress is extremely important for the wellbeing of the entire family, especially if the family is taking care of a child with ASD. Providing a stable home for the child can only help in their further, positive development.
October is Autism Awareness Month and throughout the month there are number of events and seminars aimed at helping everyone learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder, its advocacy, and care.
Below are some events happening throughout Canada:
Innovations in Practice Conference 2019
Date and Time: October 9 @ 9:00 am to October 10 @ 5:00 pm
Organizer: Innovations in Practice
Autism Alberta’s Alliance 2019 Event
Date and Time: October 11; 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Organizer: Autism Society Alberta
Completely Inclusive Accessible Networking Night
Date and Time: October 16; 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Phone: 438 788 3572
Organizer: Completely Inclusive
Positive Advocacy – Helping Parents be heard by the Ontario School Boards by Ed Mahony
Date: October 19
Fragile X and Autism
Date and Time: October 23; 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Cost: Free; Online Only
Organizer: Autism Research Institute
If you believe you or any of your family member suffering from a qualifying disability and have contributed to the CPP system, but you need assistance with the application process, Contact Disability Credit Canada for a no-obligation free assessment.