Raising children can be stressful. Raising children on the spectrum tends to be even more stress inducing when you factor in therapy appointments, schooling issues, nutritional issues, medical factors, and the list goes on and on. According to Raising Children with Autism online resource, families of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often report high levels of stress. In fact, many see it as a normal part of a family’s journey with ASD.
Gender and Stress
In many families, unfortunately, mothers tend to take the brunt of the stress on themselves. Mothers often report feeling stressed more than fathers – possibly because mothers tend to be the primary caregivers in the majority of families. Particular sources of stress for mothers include their children’s unpredictable sleeping patterns, limited ability to express emotion, and fussy eating. Furthermore, research at the Autism Network has shown that women in families with a child on the spectrum tend to bear the brunt of day-to-day burdens and domestic labor, end up responsible for managing the higher levels of conflict in these families (between autistic and non-autistic siblings, for example), and receive more blame from outsiders and their spouse for their child’s behavior. For fathers, children’s difficult behavior is often reported as a cause of stress. Each family member has their own thing that brings on the stress or pushes buttons to make activities or regular day events stressful.
Researchers at Vanderbilt University – a part of the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network – report that mothers of children with autism benefit significantly from weekly stress-reduction classes led by other mothers. The classes reduced previously high levels of personal stress, anxiety and depression, and improved the moms’ interactions with their children. The greatest benefits came with a simple “mindfulness” program involving self-relaxation techniques. For more information about family stress and seeking help, read more at Autism Speaks or at Raising Children with Autism.
Not too long ago parents struggled with advocating for their children alone and through in-cohesive support groups. Thankfully, today, with the growth of social media and the internet parents are no longer alone facing the adversity of autism. In past blogs we have examined the support groups and literature specifically for siblings. Let’s look at social media support groups since so many of us stay connected through Facebook and Twitter.
Resources for Social Media Support Groups – One of the best things about social media is that it can reach a large number of people, quickly and at any time of day or night. Whether you need another parent’s viewpoint, or just a listening ear, social media is on 24/7. There are many different types of support groups on Facebook and Twitter that cater to all types of family dynamics. (Single Parents, Grandparents, Discussion Groups. Research Groups)
- Autism Parents Support & Discussion Group – A place for you to ask Autism-related questions, have discussions, get answers and feedback, share stories of challenges and achievements and also create and foster new friendships with others who have been walking a similar path on this Autism journey.
- Autism Support Network – Autism Support Network provides a free peer-to-peer global network of people helping people with autism. Visit them at AutismSupportNetwork.com for the latest grant info, news, conferences, and help from others!
- Autism Awareness – Through the sharing of information, news & resources, we hope to empower our fans with more knowledge and the ability to help spread Autism Awareness to their friends and families.
- Autism Speaks – Autism Speaks aims to bring the autism community together as one strong voice to urge the government and private sector to listen to our concerns and take action to address this urgent global health crisis.
Milestones also offers parents support and resources directly through the school and our website contains a list of resources for your use.
Being a sibling of an autistic child or of someone of the spectrum can sometimes feel like you are overlooked in all the studies and research. There are places and for you to get support and discuss your role in the family dynamics. Milestones offers a list of resources including sibling resources on our Resources Page but we also want to make families aware of other locations you can go for support including online and books.
Online resources – There are some great resources for brothers and sisters online that allow them to research and connect with others in the same situation. If you would like to chat to other siblings of people with autism on the internet, why not join an email list like aspergers-teens or We the Siblings? All of these lists are for brothers and sisters of children or adults with autism. They discuss some of the issues of having a person with autism in the family, like growing up together and how to get along.
Books Many children’s books offer insights into what it is like to grow up with a sibling facing autism. Try one of these recommended by The Autism Society.
- My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson-Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete The book is told from the perspective of an older sister and explains autism to children ages 4-8.
- Autism Through a Sister’s Eyes by Emily Hecht and Eve Band – A terrific resource for explaining autism to siblings.
- Of Mice and Aliens by Kathy Hoopmann – A Blue Bottle Mystery for children 8-13 that tells the story of Ben, newly diagnosed with Asperger Disorder,as he helps alien Zeke understand the rules of Earth. great reading for kids on spectrum as well as siblings and classmates.
- Being the Other One: Growing Up with a Brother or Sister Who Has Special Needs by Kate Strohm
Parents of children with autism face enormous challenges and need to become autism experts almost overnight. Many times the first place parents go is the internet. If you are looking for an online community for people living with or caring for those with autism there are many options available for you. Wanting to connect to other parents is natural and can be a source of comfort, research updates, success stories or shared resources. The following are some ideas and links where you or your family can look for an online community for caregivers of those on the spectrum. Do your research and find one that is right for you.
- Autism Empowerment – promotes autism awareness, acceptance and advocacy through various social media channels, online support groups and communities. We believe that the Autism Empowerment Community is your community and our community. Working together collectively, positive things happen!
- Autism Speaks – This national website can offer many areas of expertise. On this site you can fine helpful hints, blogs, a list of support groups and the latest research on autism. Autism Speak on Facebook can be a great way to connect with other families support groups and keep up on the latest news.
- MyAutismTeam is a part of the MyHealthTeams network that allows for a safe and secure way for parents to connect online. MyAutismTeam officially launched in December 2011, and has grown to more than 22,000 registered parents in fifty states.
- Facebook has numerous discussion and chats that can help you with so many issues faced by caregivers of ASD. Facebook Discussion.
- Milestones offers a parent support group that can connect you with resources and other parents facing similar circumstances.
By connecting with other families through social media many people can find comfort at all hours of the night. Along with your medical and school staff, social media can help with tips that only other parents can offer.