By Shauna Bacon
Being the parent of a child with Autism can be stressful and sometimes confusing, creating a sense of helplessness and defeat. Due to this, we often neglect ourselves and the needs of other family members, making us feel guilty and depleted. We have higher levels of stress than parents of neurotypical children, and even children with other developmental delays. This often leads to an increased risk of depression and anxiety, along with marital stress. Hope is not lost, there are ways to cope with this level of stress, and to help diminish it for ourselves and our families. One way of coping is by changing our view of Autism, and the child who has it. Often times we focus on the deficits that come from it, but there are many strengths that our children have because of it. When our child learns to ride a bike (or hits another milestone) later than is expected, this can be a joyful occasion, and they often offer us a unique view of the world around us. Another method is by creating a strong support system, either through family, friends, neighbors, or a support group devoted to parents of special needs children. A third way is to be proactive instead of reactive. Planning for activities before they occur can help you and your child have a successful outcome, rather than waiting for something negative to happen and attempting to cope with it in the moment. Counseling can be another effective coping strategy. It can provide us with the support we need, and another perspective, in a safe environment. As we decrease our stress level, we will ultimately be helping our child with ASD, as well as the rest of our family.