If you are raising a child with autism, then you know that we always have a battle to fight. Our journey becomes a roller coaster ride that we board when our children are diagnosed. It is easy for us to burn out, especially when sources of support are few and access to services is limited.
These are our realities. There is no way around it. So what can we do? We have two choices: 1. Make the best of our situation by finding a way to make things work. 2. Become paralyzed by what needs to be done and in the end do nothing. What is your choice?
During recent conversations with fellow autism parents, I recognized a common theme: We were not getting enough time to ourselves. We were caught up in all that comes with raising our children. We forgot that when we don’t take care of ourselves, we are decreasing our ability to care for others.
I have promised myself that I will stop at nothing to give my son what he needs and I will make self-care a priority. I encourage all of you to do the same. So how can we avoid becoming burnt out as we raise our children with autism?
Check out five things you can do to get started today:
- Keep up with your annual medical and dental checkups. Our physical health is so important. We are no good to our children or ourselves when we are sick. If we crash, then the whole ship goes down.
- Consider psychotherapy and/or psychiatric care. Being in good mental health is critical. I know in our community going to see a therapist can be taboo, but we need to push past this stigma and get help when we need it. Taking care of children is no easy feat. Sometimes it can overwhelm even the strongest parent.
- Tap into the entitlement services in your state to get access to services. Services like respite can be a God send for our families. I know some parents who have shared the ridiculous wait times for this particular service. We can start by putting our child’s name on these waiting lists and following up periodically. I have found that smaller agencies may have a shorter wait time for support services. Call every agency in your state if you have to, in order to get the help that you need. If one agency has a three- year wait, another one may have a one-year wait. Some agencies will let you bring someone in to be trained as your respite provider. Find out the options in your state, but please do not give up.
- Steal moments in your day to have some “me time.” I have learned that we have to think outside the box when it comes to self care. Maybe some of us do not have anyone to watch our children. This means that self care will have to come in other forms. It could be as simple as reading for pleasure during our commute to work or waking up before the kids to exercise. It could even mean watching a Netflix movie with some popcorn and a glass of wine once the kids are in bed. If you do have a support system in place, then you have more options. Make time for date nights, girl’s or boy’s night out, or even going out alone. A good friend of mine does her “Mommy Walk Outs” once a week. I love this idea.
- Ask for help. I know this sounds simple, but it can be tough to let others know that we need them. The reality is most of the people around us are caught up in their own lives. We really can’t fault them for that. If we need help, we need to ask for it. It is that simple. Ask the people in your life (family, friends, associates, agencies) for help. We do not have to do this alone.
BMWK: What do you do to avoid burn out as a parent of a child with autism?