Depression Among Parents of Kids With Autism
Studies have shown that parents of kids with autism have stress levels similar to those of soldiers in active combat, and may experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) like war veterans. One of the reasons for this is the constant state of alertness we are in, wherein we are constantly on the lookout for “threats” against our children. Only, in our case, the threats come in the form of routine changes, sensory issues, safety concerns, etc. Unlike soldiers, none of us are trained to deal with highly stressful situations over extended periods of time. We are in the midst of it and have to learn on the job.
To make matters worse is the lack of understanding and support some autism families face. In addition to dealing with the challenges of raising a child on the spectrum, parents of kids with autism also have to battle social and emotional isolation. Sometimes no one in our circle of friends and families understands what we are going through. Our paths seem to diverge the moment our child is diagnosed with autism. While parents of neurotypical kids bond over school and sports and extra-curricular activities, parents of kids with autism are going from one therapy to another, and negotiating with schools for IEPs.
For some parents, coming to terms with an autism diagnosis can be hard in itself. All of a sudden everything you took for granted is no longer guaranteed: your chid’s placement in school, your child having friends, your child playing sports, your child participating in extracurricular activities, your child becoming independent, your child getting a job, your child having a career, your child getting married, your child having children, your child leading a conventionally successful life. Sometimes you grieve the loss of your hopes, dreams, expectations and ambitions for your child. The grieving process, however, remains the same: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and eventually, acceptance.
While some of us able to overcome our grief on our own, some of us slip into depression and need help to get better. It is important to note that a person dealing with major depression cannot simply “get over it.” They need counseling and medication in addition to understanding and support, to get better. It doesn’t mean they are weak. It takes a lot of courage and strength to admit you need help and seek it.
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