Being a supportive spouse is something that can make a marriage thrive. However support is even more crucial when raising a child who is on the autism spectrum. Sometimes your spouse is all you have to help you deal with the challenges that autism can bring into your family.
Here are 10 ways that couples raising a child with autism can support each other:
- Give each other a break. Burn out is something that many parents raising children with autism face. Our children’s needs are many. Avenues of support are few. As parents we definitely need a chance to rest and get some “me time.”
- Ask how you can help. Many couples often fall into specific parental roles. Sometimes the work is divided in an equal way and sometimes it is not. If you notice that your spouse is overwhelmed with a task, ask how you can help or better yet start helping.
- Learn all you can about the special education process. Navigating the maze of special education can be very stressful. Trying to get services and an appropriate education for your child can bring on more stress than the average family has to deal with. When both parents make an effort to learn how to navigate this maze, it can be a huge relief to everyone.
- Know that your way is not the only way. I am guilty of this. My husband and I have some different ways of doing things for our son. I realize that I have to let go and know that he will get the task done even if it not the same way I will do it.
- Realize that you both have a purpose. Each parent has a purpose in their children’s lives. We each have to pull our weight. If I am in the kitchen cooking and my husband takes our son to the playground, he is serving a purpose. Our son needs the stimulation. It benefits him just as much as the food I am cooking benefits him. Each family dynamic is different and knowing where our strengths and weaknesses are can help us fulfill our purpose as parents.
- Follow through. If one spouse asks the other to do something, get it done. This is so important because if the person who asks has to end up doing the same task it can lead to resentment. Following through also transcends to both parents doing their part to help implement therapeutic strategies at home with their child.
- Have fun together. There are so many obstacles that can get in the way of family fun. We have to think of money, time, and if your child has challenging behaviors. Still finding the time to do things as a family can benefit your child in so many ways and it can also benefit you as a couple.
- Be a good listener. As parents raising children on the autism spectrum, there will be a lot to talk about. There will be discussions about IEP meetings, parent-teacher conferences, your child’s progress or lack thereof, planning for the future, the list goes on. It is important to listen to each other and work together to make good decisions that are in your child’s best interest.
- Get Involved. When both parents get involved in an autism parent support group or an organization that benefits children on the spectrum, it can have a positive impact on the entire family. These outlets give both parents a chance to bond, network, and learn more about how to help their child.
- Plan ahead. Financial and estate planning will help provide support in the event that one parent passes on. Having life insurance and a will are also very important. While your spouse is grieving, they will be able to get some comfort from the benefits of the plans that you put in place as a couple.
How do you provide support to your spouse as you raise your child with autism? What would you add to this list? Please share. I look forward to hearing from you.
(This post first appeared on Black and Married With Kids.)