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Advice for Parents of a Child with Autism

Learn why it's important for parents of a child with autism to take care of themselves from pediatrician Asma J. Sadiq, M.D. in this Howcast video.


This is advice to parents. When you have a child diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, I always want you to remember yourself as the primary caretaker. You need to look after yourself to be able to look after your child. And parents often forget that. It is such an issue to do everything. Your heart is out there with your child and you want to do everything possible. But doing it on a gradient and remembering that this is a marathon not a sprint. You have to take breaks. You have to pace yourself. You have to build up stamina. You have to get yourself supports and you have to take a break.

There's a lot of stress in the marriage and you nobody else will care for your child the way the two of you do. You have to support each other. Often there becomes so much pain that you end up taking it out at times on the person closest to you and it's important to be aware of that. That there is going to be denial, sadness, anger, and a lot of frustration that comes along, but also a lot of joy as you come together and work with helping your child. But in doing so, remember to help each other and yourselves. Whether it's going for a massage, or helping the other one go off and run track if that's what he wants to do or if she wants to go and be with girlfriends, remember to give each other space and support each other’s interests. Not get into the guilt, shame, blame game.

Another very important thing is to take time out for yourselves and for your marriage because often that gets put on the back burner. This is so strained that much that it can bond parents together because this is so crucial to you and you have this bond together with your child. You have the joys together but also the anguishes together. You need to get out, see a movie, get some childcare, get extended family, develop babysitting and get a parents support group.

I think that's very important to help other parents but also get support from other parents because you have something to give and you also have something to learn and to share. And I think this is very crucial because you have to heal the healer in the sense because the parent is the 24-hour healer. You are there all the time with your child. And so you have a very primal, pivotal role and you have to been in good shape because your depression, your exhaustion will affect your child. So you need to do it almost like a prescription. It's like in the airplane, you first give oxygen to yourself and then to your child. If you can't look after yourself, you’re not going to be able to look after your child as well. So remember that and give yourself a breather and give yourself a break and a pat on the back sometimes for all that you have done and are doing and a hug to each other.

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