Living with someone who has an autism spectrum disorder has its challenges, and it is a situation that more and more families find themselves facing. In 2012, one out of every 68 children was identified as having autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control. If you live with a person who has this disorder, use these five tips to help your family flourish.
1. Get involved with the autism community.
One of the best things you can do to help your family live life to its fullest is get involved with the autism community. Organizations like the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation can offer significant support, including opportunities to interact and socialize with other families touched by autism. Many people find the chance to talk with others who truly understand what they are dealing with because they are facing similar circumstances priceless. The autism community also offers educational resources and information about various forms of advocacy.
2. Encourage advocacy.
What is advocacy? It simply means championing a person or cause. When you live with someone with autism, it’s vital that you actively advocate for them by educating the people they encounter and ensuring that your loved one gets the support they deserve to succeed. This might mean seeing that they have a proper Individualized Education Program in school or pursuing a new therapy with their physician. It can also involve encouraging your loved one to be their own advocate or supporting efforts on the state and national level to improve the quality of care for people with autism.
3. Celebrate the good stuff.
When a health condition makes someone different, it is easy to focus on what is missed. Milestones that are not reached and tasks that cannot be achieved are depressing, and while it is okay to be sad, angry or disappointed and important to be honest about the situation, there is no need to focus on the negative. Instead of dwelling on the downsides, make a choice to celebrate the good stuff. Acknowledge each new achievement, even a small one, and it will be easier to maintain a positive attitude and appreciate the joys that life brings.
4. Take care of yourself.
Too often, caretakers are so busy helping those who count on them that they forget to look after themselves. That is a recipe for disaster. Putting yourself first sometimes is not a bad thing; it is a survival skill. If you do not maintain your own health, you will not be able to effectively care for anyone else. Follow a healthy lifestyle, nurture your own relationships and passions, and be kind to yourself. Doing so will set a good example for your entire family and make it easier for you to provide them with the support they need to succeed.
5. Remember that autism is only part of the picture.
Having an autism spectrum disorder does not define a person; it is only a small facet of who they are. Don’t let autism become the center of your family life or the central feature of your relationships. Make sure that everyone in the family has plenty of opportunities to be both the center of attention and the supporting cast. Making time to do things both as a family and one-on-one will ultimately improve everyone’s relationships and social skills and strengthen your family.
Individuals who have an autism spectrum disorder face certain challenges, and so do the people who share their lives. Finding support, advocating for needed services, maintaining a positive attitude, practicing self-care and keeping a healthy prospective can help you find more joy in the times you share with your autistic loved one.