Every person is unique, and autism impacts differently on every child, parent and family. All parents and caregivers of children on the autism spectrum will experience a unique set of challenges. Research shows that many parents develop resilience and experience various positive aspects of parenting a child with autism, however research also reveals that many parents of children on the autism spectrum have:
- high levels of parenting stress,
- low self-reported quality of life
- high levels of depression, anxiety, anger and fatigue 1 2
What can I do?
Resilience is the ability to adapt in spite of stress and adversity. When parents develop resilience this benefits both themselves and their children. There are a number of factors which foster resilience in parents of children with autism.
Autism Tasmania can provide:
- information on services which offer counselling and respite,
- opportunities to meet other parents/carers of young people with autism
- Free parent/carer information sessions on a range of topics
Stress Reduction Strategies
Even a brisk 30 minute walk activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. 3
Other ways to reduce stress can include:
- Get a good night’s sleep. Don’t drink coffee or tea in the evening and explore ways to wind down before bed. Some people find avoiding using the computer or watching television but instead listening to music, taking a relaxing bath or reading can help.
- Talk to friends about how you feel. Autism Tasmania offers several Peer Support Groups throughout Tasmania and information about these can be obtained by contacting member of the Autism Information Team.
- Practicing mindfulness techniques – especially in combination with evidence based approaches such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – Carers Tasmania have qualified counsellors trained in delivering MiCBT (Mindfulness integrated with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)
- It may also help to talk with a professional counsellor. Carers’ Tasmania offer short-term counselling for carers and their families, or you may like to utilise Medicare’s “Better Access to Mental Health” Care Plan to access psychological support services – available via your GP.
Beyond Blue offers an immediate, 24 hour and 7 days a week, support via their phone service on 1300 224 636 as well as a list of other organisations who operate Helplines and Websites.
Bitsika, V., Sharpley, C., & Bell, R. (2013). The buffering effect of resilience upon stress, anxiety and depression in parents of a child with an autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 25, 533-543↩
Neff, K. & Faso, D. (2015). Self-compassion and well-being in parents of children with autism. Mindfulness, 6, 938-947↩
The Mayo Clinic (2014), Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity, Mayo Clinic accessed 22 September 2015 http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389↩