‘……….BY DARREN SUSH / CONTRIBUTING WRITER
All parents face daily obstacles, but parents of children with autism experience increased challenges that can result in overwhelming anxiety, depression, self-doubt and sadness.
With Autism Awareness Month already underway, it is important to recognize that awareness of the need for mental health support and resources for parents of children with autism needs to significantly increase.
Here are five essential tips for parents to manage their stress and better support their family.
Tip 1: Remember to BreatheAs a parent of a child with autism, it is understandable that you would sometimes feel heartbroken, frustrated or stressed. That does not make you a terrible person or a bad parent. It makes you human. When you encounter a moment more stressful than normal, do your best to take a minute, breathe and recognize that it will pass. Each moment can be a learning experience. Even if you do not gain any new information, at least you learn that you survived the moment to breathe again.
Tip 2: Celebrate VictoriesFocus on the successes and achievements of your child and family no matter how tiny they may seem. If your child waved “hello” for the first time, gave a hug to a new friend or successfully asked for a break, treat these moments as steps toward the health and independence of your child and celebrate them.
Tip 3: Keep a Journal of successesWhether it’s through a leather-bound portfolio, a video blog or just a bunch of sticky notes in an old shoe box, keeping a journal will help you save a record of the amazing triumphs of your child and free your mind of all the things that can cause stress.
Tip 4: Find Support through othersOften, parents of children with autism distance themselves from others. They may worry about how their struggles will be interpreted or perceived or be concerned about the safety of their family outside the home environment. It is important to remember that your experiences are your own, but you are not alone. Making a connection in which you can freely share your thoughts and feelings can be exceptionally important in reducing stress.
Tip 5: Don’t Be Afraid of TherapyThere is not necessarily a right or wrong way to get the help you need. There are several forms of psychotherapy, and the best process for you may be different from what works for someone else. If possible, look for a therapist or support group that is knowledgeable about autism to save time having to educate them about the surrounding challenges.
Located in Los Angeles, Darren Sush, Psy.D., BCBA-D, is a licensed clinical psychologist and board-certified behavior analyst specializing in therapy for parents of children with autism. Additionally, he provides individual, couples and group psychotherapy specifically for parents of children with autism and special needs. For more information, please visit drdarrensush.com. ……………’