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Parents, It's OK to Need In-Home Help for Your Autistic Child

Supporting my son on the autism spectrum doesn’t stop at 3:30 in the afternoon when my workday is done.  It continues through the evening and into the morning before my workday begins. I’m setting timers, following routines, and using positive reinforcement to help him get out the door with a minimal amount of arguments. After school, I’m checking on how my son is feeling, giving him time to swing, and offering choices for when homework needs to be completed. I am always mindful and on my tippy toes.

I am a social worker for students with autism, intellectual disabilities, etc.  I am also the parent of a teen on the spectrum.  My son is loving, funny, unique, and amazing.  He also absorbs a lot of my time and energy.  I need time and energy for his sibling who needs attention too, although in more subtle ways.  Add in a husband and a dog, both with their own needs, and there ends up being very little time and energy left for little old me. I have to fight for that time, and typically someone drops the ball the minute I make the effort to take care of myself.  It can all be too much.

One of the greatest choices I made when my kids were young and I was adjusting to my son’s autism diagnosis was to allow therapists to come into my home and not only work with my son on skills, but give me a break.  This was different than a babysitter or a family member giving a parent a break.  What helped me was knowing that my son was learning from a professional and I did not have to feel guilty worrying that he was just zoning out on screens while I was gone.

In my role as a school social worker, I implore parents to allow professionals into their homes, knowing that there will be awkward moments in which you would like to argue with your spouse without this person in your home.  It may be awkward and uncomfortable, but it’s worth it.  Raising a child with autism is a great responsibility, and without these extensive interventions, our children may not communicate or function successfully in the world. It is too much to carry without the support of others trained and willing to shoulder some of the responsibility.

Unfortunately, sometimes people insist on putting their privacy above these interventions.  Sometimes it is because they do not want others to see what is happening in their homes.  Other times, parents just feel they know what to do and don’t want outside suggestions. Sometimes parents insist on being martyrs.

It’s really hard to make these decisions, but I feel I have the unique perspective of a parent and professional.  I am begging you, let people help your child.

Getty image by demaerre.

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