Coping with Challenges in Daily Life
Having a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD or autism) can pose all kinds of challenges in daily life, and it can be quite a shock to parents when their child is diagnosed with it. Some of the main challenges to parents are:
- Dealing with feelings and emotions upon learning the diagnosis
- Attitude and reaction of other people including relatives and friends
- Emotional isolation (Parents may feel that nobody else understands the unique challenges of dealing with a child with autism.)
- Restricted social life because of the child’s often difficult and challenging behavior
- Sleepless nights
Parents will have to deal with a range of feelings and emotions, such as pain and grief, as they struggle to come to terms with the diagnosis. Moreover, adjusting to this situation will nudge them to rethink their future hopes and plans for their child, as well as their own. Although a major life-changing event such as this may bring some couples closer, often it can cause additional tension, stress, and strain between them.
In addition to struggling with their own feelings, the attitude and reaction of other people, such as relatives and friends, can also be difficult to deal with. Although relatives, especially grandparents, can be a great source of support, others will find it hard to accept the diagnosis and will not fully understand the extent of the challenges that the parents face. Well-meaning comments, such as “he will grow out of it” or all children do that,” can lead parents to emotional isolation. This is when they will begin to feel that nobody else really understands and that their feelings are not being validated.
Another major challenge faced by parents is restricted social life. Because of the child’s difficult behavior and demanding needs, simple routines can become time-consuming. Getting ready to go out, for example, can take up more time than usual because of interruptions such as routines or rituals that the child feels compelled to do.
In line with this, taking the child out in public can be exhausting, especially when the child throws a tantrum or a screaming fit. This kind of situation may receive different interpretations and reactions from strangers. They may make all kinds of judgments about the parents or may assume that the child is behaving badly because he is not disciplined properly. This, in turn, can make parents feel even more stressed in an already awkward and embarrassing situation.
Finally, sleepless nights pose an enormous challenge for parents coping with a child diagnosed with autism. Often the child finds it hard to settle to sleep and may need to perform a series of rituals and routines first. Others are overactive, will not stay in bed, may not realize the need to sleep, or may not sleep for very long. All of this can interfere with the amount of or quality of, or both, of the parents’ sleep and will further compound the already existing challenges of dealing with their child.
Dr. Lorna Wing, an internationally recognized medical authority on autism, advocates developing a positive attitude in dealing with day-to-day challenges. There are reported cases of parents that have developed feelings of guilt after professional workers attributed the strange behavior of the child to parental mishandling. According to Dr. Wing, these feelings are a waste of mental energy that can be better used instead. She advises seeking the help of professional workers to help develop a constructive attitude, if needed, to help cope with the enormous challenges of having a child with autism.
Dr. Lorna Wing, MD, Innerself.com, “Autism Challenges Parents,” retrieved March 24, 2011, from http://innerself.com/content/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4350:autism-challenges-parents&catid=83&Itemid=126
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