How Autism Affects the Family

Autistic disorders affect more than just the individuals who carry the diagnosis — they can also present many day-to-day challenges for those who spend significant time with the diagnosed person. These challenges can include emotional distress, physical exhaustion and social isolation. From parents and caregivers to siblings and friends, Autism disorders affect many of those who love and care for the diagnosed individual.

Concerns From Siblings

It is not uncommon for siblings, especially if they are close in age to the diagnosed person, to act out as result of feelings related to their brother or sister with Autism.

Siblings may get frustrated with the amount of attention their brother or sister with Autism may require. Because caring for a child with special needs can be quite time consuming, jealousy is not an uncommon feeling among siblings. The jealousy may present itself in multiple ways, from aggression and throwing fits to acting younger than their age or feigning helplessness to get more attention.

Parental Challenges

Parents are certainly not immune to the effects of autism. Moms and dads may get frustrated because they feel like they cannot reach or “get through” to their child.  It is also common for the parent to feel like their child is not attached or connected to them as much as they should be.  Often, this is a result of the social difficulties associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders, which include social cues (poor eye contact) and language issues (difficulties with tone). It is important for parents to avoid losing hope and not allow themselves to get too frustrated. It is also necessary to have a good support system and a safe place to discuss frustrations and concerns.

There are a variety of support groups that can be quite helpful in serving this function.  It is recommended that parents have their own hobbies outside of parenting.  When caring for children with special needs, a parent may often feel as though they cannot put their energy into anything but parenting.  Understand that this is a natural feeling to have, but is not always ideal for the parent-child relationship. Parents should continue to take care of themselves so they can better take care of their child. Exercising, eating right and regular medical care are all important aspects of caring for yourself so you can care for your child.

About Autism

Please join me for a special presentation on Tuesday, April 8th at ProMedica Memorial Hospital in Fremont, Ohio. “About Autism” is a free public event where local experts, including myself, will discuss signs, treatment options and current research of Autism Spectrum Disorders. The event takes place at 6:30 p.m. in the hospital’s Herbert-Perna Center for Physical Health. For additional information, please call the Memorial Hospital Physical Medicine Department at 419-334-6630.