We know that when a member of your family is diagnoses with Autism, you may feel overwhelmed, alone and afraid of the challenges that are ahead of you.
These feelings are completely normal and valid, it is a time of uncertainty and change! However, you do not have to feel completely alone; there are resources for you and your family!
As a family member of an individual with Autism, you may be concerned that he or she will not be able to grow up and live a ‘normal’ life. It is important to remember that the term ‘normal’ is both outdated and irrelevant, as every family and person will have their own ‘normal’! Your life may look different from someone else’s, but that does not meant hat you cannot create a wonderful, fulfilling and happy life with your family, despite their disabilities. Coming to terms with the idea that your life will be fulfilled in a different way can be challenging, but once that realization comes through you will be able to support your loved one and family with a much clearer mind.
Family Therapy for Loved Ones with Autism
Although most of the resources out there are exclusively for the individual with Autism, the family unit will benefit from the different types of therapies offered for Autism. The type of therapy that your loved one will be prescribed will be highly dependent on their type of Autism, as well as the specific and personal challenges that he or she faces on a daily basis. For example, if your loved one struggles from outbursts of inappropriate behavior during social interactions, he or she may start off with social skills and behavior therapy. This type of therapy will hone in on your loved one’s needs and how to improve their behavior to have a successful social life.
Other kinds of therapies may focus on self-injury prevention, depression in Autism, sensory based therapies or even animal-based therapy using emotional support animals. It is imperative to know that therapy for Autism should be conducted by a professional and should never be done without the consent of both the family and the doctor. Therapy can be aggressive, invasive and difficult at times, so it is important to know that this is for the good of your loved one in the long run. Starting therapy off at a younger age can help correct their behaviors and reroute their minds to be able to interact with others in a positive and pleasant way.
Resources for Adults with Autism
As your loved one gets older, there are other resources that are more geared towards adults and how they are able to function as a full member of society. As a family member of an individual with Autism, it is important to encourage your loved one to seek out the resources that are available to them. As an adult with Autism, they may feel as though their options are limited when it comes to jobs, higher education and general adult responsibilities. However, with the right resources, such as University of Southern California’s The Lifestyle Redesign® program, they will be able to function as contributing members of society. Programs in the community may range from interview practice to learning how to pay bills and balance their bank accounts. Just as your loved one did in their earlier years; their therapies and programs will be highly dependent on the needs that they have. Programs can range from highly intensive every day programs to less intense programs that meet once a week.
Some of the most important resources out there for a family of an individual with Autism is a support group. This will allow you to communicate with others that may be feeling the same way as you, giving you an outlet to channel your emotions. Support groups may vary based on the specific diagnoses or a general support group for families with loved ones that have a disability or are special needs. You can connect with families that have similar experiences by speaking with your doctor or an education professional that may be able to connect you with support groups. These support groups will help you navigate through the uncertainty that is therapy and education with an individual with Autism. Having a support group will allow you to have likeminded individuals there for you during the hard times, as well as an outlet to speak your mind and find solace in a hectic situation. Support groups may not be for everyone, but if you need a sustenance system we highly encourage them.
Autism speaks has curated a list of resources for your family that will allow you to live a healthy and happy life. The resources that they provide to families range from the person who is on the Autism spectrum to the family members that are affected by their Autism. There are also resources that are specific to the type of Autism that your family member may have.
Remember that each type of Autism is different, and their daily lives will be different from the others on the spectrum, so the resources will be different as well.
It is also important to remember that if you have other children that are not on the Autism spectrum, they may be feeling left out or lonely during this transitional time. It is important to know when your children may be feeling this way and make sure to address these feelings right away. First and foremost, there should be a conversation between you and your children about their siblings’ condition and why he or she will be receiving special or different attention that they may not be receiving. By explaining this situation to them, you can paint their siblings’ condition in a positive light rather than in a negative way. When your child with Autism is at their therapy programs or at school, it is important to remember to give your other children a little extra one on one time. We suggest taking time out of your busy schedule to spend one on one quality time with your children that may not be getting the same amount of attention daily. We know that as a parent of a child with Autism, you are not meaning to single one child out more than another, leaving one feeling left out. However, this will be a natural feeling, especially if that sibling is older and may have had more attention from his or her parents prior to the birth of the individual with Autism. Family therapy may help you work through these emotions and issues, while addressing them head on before they manifest into negative feelings between parent and child.
These resources are meant to help you and your family learn how to cope during a time of uncertainty, fear and challenges. We know that this time in your life in chaotic and hectic, but specific resources and support groups will allow you to relate to people that are in a similar situation as you and your family. The health, wellness and happiness of your family is and should be your priority, so we encourage you to find the time to seek out the resources that are right for you.