Thursday, May 13, 2010

Stress on Families Living with Autism

According to Autism Speaks, Autism affects 1 in 110 children, and 1 in 70 boys.

My son has Asperger's Syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum. Living with an autistic child is the most difficult thing I have ever encountered. The stress is unbelievable. I've been searching for answers on how families deal with this. I have found a few articles online that I thought I should share with other families who are living with autism.

Adrianne Horowitz, C.S.W., contributed an article to The Autism Society of America site regarding "Stress on Families." She suggests prayer, exercise, yoga, deep breathing, writing in a journal, keeping a daily schedule of things to accomplish, and individual, marital or family counseling, among other ideas.

Walks to raise funds and promote awareness for Autism Speaks are being held throughout the U.S. and Canada. To see if a walk is scheduled for your area, check here. Check out their social networking sites, too.

I'm curious to learn how other families are dealing with stress. It seems to get worse near the end of the school year, when the pressure begins to mount, even for families of typically-developing kids.


  1. My son was diagnosed with Autism in 2004, at the age of 7. That same year, my husband, who is in the Air Force, deployed to Iraq for six months.

    We also have a younger daughter.

    So, not wanting to have my children in day care, and because there were no child care providers available to care for a special needs child, I resigned from work to stay home with my children.

    Since then, I've dealt with IEP meetings and the affects of autism on my son, his school, and our family. My husband has been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt etc, every year since 2004. He is now in Korea in the 5th month of a year long tour. He'll return in Dec. 2010.

    Needless to say, I have had to deal with stress from many sources.

    I don't know about yoga, exercise, prayer etc., as a means of stress relief for the family. It may work for some.

    For myself, I took up creative writing in 2004 and recently began learning photography. Nurturing my creative side has greatly helped reduce my own stress.

    Still, my primary concern is my son. His autistic behaviors lead to situations in school and with his peers that cause him a great amount of stress.

    Overcoming my own stress is challenging, but I know what works for me. Helping my son find ways to overcome his stress is another matter.

    We've also found creative outlets work for him. He used to draw often, but now no longer does. He has since moved on to collecting cards and building with Legos. These are activities I have learned can be repetitive, which is something he enjoys.

    He has hundreds of cards that he has arranged in a specific order. He used to carry his favorite set with him everywhere we went.

    He also enjoys building things with LEGO bricks, usually making structures that are symmetrical, or another defined shape.

    This is one of the primary reasons for the Robin Hood Lego Campaign.

    It's something fun for our family to focus on. Legos are one of the few activities that draw my son's attention and make him happy. So, I am in return, happy to promote a campaign that will put Robin Hood Legos in stores.

    It's unlikely that LEGO will introduce the Robin Hood Lego, but the creative outlet is working well to ease the stress that our family deals with on a daily basis.

    Sorry that this is such a long reply. Thanks for reading. : )


  2. Dear Rose,
    I am so glad you responded ~ and no need to apologize for the length of your reply.

    I truly believe that families with typically-developing children have no clue what autism is like and what it can do to a family; that other families struggling with autism understand.

    My heart breaks for you knowing that you are going this alone, that your husband is serving our country, sacrificing so much.

    It's ironic that you've brought up writing and photography. I've turned to writing full time and my husband does photography.
    I gave up my job after 21 years as a police officer because of my alternating shifts, and I didn't see my kids every other week. Knowing my son's difficulties, I thought it was important, too, to be home with him. I cut my salary in less than half in order to do it. I also survived cancer, which gave me another reason to stay home; I've known several women who've died from breast cancer and left a total of 12 children motherless.

    You are so right, you have to deal with your own stress, and your son's's so difficult!

    Our sons are about the same age...

    How wonderful he has found joy with the cards and the Legos. That's a relief right there!

    I hope that you will stay in touch ~ we could write to one another about this challenge we both face.

    Thank you for your heartfelt reply, Rose. It means the world to me.

  3. Dear Alena,

    Welcome ~ and thank you for visiting my blog and reading along. I appreciate your kind comments!