Caregivers, you are the cornerstone of support for your child or family member living with autism. Our goal is to help you realize that your efforts and investment have a positive impact on the wellbeing and progress of your child. That’s why we at The Autism Analyst have dedicated our time and research strategies in creating high-quality information, resources, and support for you. The rock stars. The heroes who are tirelessly giving 110% of your love, dedication, and time.
Who Is A Caregiver?
A caregiver can include any of the following who may live with, or provide guidance and support for a family member living with autism:
- Legal guardian
An older sibling
Other family member
Because of the effort and focus that you place on meeting the needs of your child or family member, you may not realize when you’re feeling exhausted, stressed out, burned out, or in need of emotional support yourself. You may be juggling IEP’s, behavior therapists at your home 3 or 4 days a week, speech therapists, dieticians, or occupational therapists. You may not have time to feel overwhelmed, anxious, or exhausted. Or, you may feel ashamed for feeling these things. It is very common for caregivers to push our needs aside while making our child’s needs front-and-center.
We want you to know that your efforts are valued and we hear you. While you continue helping to make huge successes in the quality of your child’s life, it is critical to recognize and tend to your own needs, as well.
As the old saying goes….”We can’t pour from an empty cup.”
Stress and Recent Research
Symptoms of stress often come on like a slow burn. We may not realize that when we feel exhausted or are dealing with another headache, that we may actually be battling stress. We may shrug off changes in our diet, our mood, or our emotional health as nothing, when in fact these may be additional causes for concern. Higher stress levels negatively impact families of children with autism and related focused needs. Issues including lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep, emotional or physical pain, changes in energy levels, depression/anxiety, marital issues including divorce, and social isolation are legitimate issues that affect many – if not most – families living with focused interests.
Existing research suggests that the stress levels of parents of children with autism actually have stress levels comparable to combat veterans. Because of prolonged stressors, the risk for parents and caregivers developing depression, anxiety, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are significant.
Research validates the importance of parent training for empowering themselves and their children. It is perhaps even more important for parent training when focused needs are involved. Current studies suggest that parents and caregivers who have not received support also feel a lack of control over helping their child’s behavior and supporting their child’s needs. On the flipside, parents who are taught specific skills for responding to their child’s aggression, impulsivity, or sensory needs in a prosocial way show significantly positive benefits for both the parents and their children, which also helped reduce parental stress.
Because parental and caregiver stress play such an important role in how we interact and support our children, self-care becomes even more critical. When a parent or caregiver’s stress levels are elevated, there is a lower threshold for being able to positively interact and tolerate a child’s behavioral problems such as a meltdown, a tantrum, or aggression, which poses a risk for an unhealthy cycle.
Thus, self-awareness, self-advocacy and self-monitoring become critical skills for recognizing your emotional, physical and psychological needs.
We at The Autism Analyst have developed several resources, worksheets and workbooks to help you continue powering through parenting as the heroes you are, and will soon be adding many more resources.
Please check out our “Empower” page for helpful self-care tips all parents and caregivers need.
Bonis, S. (2016). Stress and parents of children with autism: A review of literature. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 37, 153–163.
Hoefman, R., et al. (2015). Caring for a child with autism spectrum disorder and parents quality of life. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 44(8), 1933 – 1945.
Di Renzo, M., et al. (2020). Parental perception of stress and emotional-behavioral difficulties of children with autism spectrum disorder and specific language impairment. Autism and Developmental Language Impairments, 5, 1 – 12.
Seltzer, M. M., et al. (2011). Maternal cortisol levels and behavior problems in adolescents and adults with ASD. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 40(4), 457 – 469.
Smith, L. E., et al. (2009). Daily experiences among mothers of adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 40, 167 – 178.