How parents can cope and how to support them

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As the mother of two young autistic sons, Eileen Lamb knows firsthand the difficulties of parenting an autistic child.

Autism spectrum disorder describes a wide range of conditions related to challenges in social skills, communication, and repetitive behaviors. One in 44 8-year-old children in the United States has been diagnosed with autism, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So during Autism Awareness Month, Lamb said parents of children with autism need ways to deal with their challenges, and friends and family members should try to support them all the way. throughout the journey.

Charlie, her 9-year-old child, was diagnosed with level 3 autism when she was 22 months old. At 26, Lamb learned that she herself had level 1 autism. Then her 6-year-old Jude was also diagnosed with level 1. Lamb said it can be difficult because they all have their own challenges.

Autism can be quite isolating for parents. Before Charlie, Lamb spent time with friends but then had to focus on her child.

“It can be really tiring and exhausting to deal with all of this on a daily basis, without any help after therapy is over. It’s just us at home, and we just have to figure it out,” she explained.

She said something as simple as showing up with a pizza or a bottle of wine can go a long way for a parent. Sending a simple text to ask how things are going or offering to babysit can also help.

Early on with Charlie, Lamb wanted to update her family in France, so she created a Facebook page. Some of his posts went viral and his parents told him they could relate to his writings. Inspired, she created her blog www.theautismcafe.com, wrote a few books and took up photography. The blog has become an autistic community that encourages him and other autistic families to continue.

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Tiffanie Moore is associate vice president of clinical services at Houston-based BlueSprig. With offices in Sugar Land, Stafford, and nationwide, BlueSprig offers applied behavior analysis therapy for children with autism. ABA helps them improve their communication and social skills.

Moore said the positive impact of parenting a child with autism can be very rewarding, but it’s also easy to overlook personal needs.

“It can definitely be difficult to focus on self-care time or doing things to help recharge and continue to be that support person,” Moore explained.

Parents, she said, need people in their lives they can call on to celebrate their wins and talk about the tough stuff. A support group, therapist, or a close family member or friend might be good options.

Speech therapy, occupational therapy and ABA can be very beneficial for the child but can also give the parent time to run errands or focus on themselves a bit as the sessions can last several hours five days a week. week.

Sometimes parents need a break but may not have someone they think is equipped to care for their autistic child. Agencies with trained staff provide services such as respite care at little or no cost.

“It’s a great resource to tap into that takes the worry out of it and also gives families the opportunity to do things that recharge their batteries, like getting some uninterrupted sleep or self-care by going for a pedicure or meeting. a friend at a restaurant,” Moore said.

She encouraged friends and family members to offer support when they see a need, rather than waiting for a parent to ask. An example might be offering to plan a trip to the mall or zoo for the family and go if they know it might be overwhelming for the child.

Inviting parents to events and continuing to ask them even when they’re repeatedly turned down helps them feel included, Moore said. They will come when they can. Being flexible about the invitation also helps because a parent may have unexpected schedule changes.

Friends and family members can also attend autism support groups with parents to learn more about the disorder and better understand their daily challenges.

Lamb emphasized that autism is different for every person and being present is key.

“I think it’s important to remember that we are individuals: we all have our struggles, our strengths, our opinions,” she said. “And, yes, we are all different from each other. And if people want to help, they can do it just by being here.

For more information on BlueSprig, visit www.bluesprigautism.com.

tracy.man[email protected]

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