The Stress of Autism: Parents, Behaviors, and Psychological Distress

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Science Daily had an interesting article today regarding the impact Autism is having on mothers vs. mothers of children with developmental delays.  It seems that parents with Autistic children have a higher level of stress and psychological distress than those parents of children with developmental delays. 

It's interesting also to note that high care-giving needs are not the cause of stress.  Even though some parents of children with developmental disorders need to focus more on care giving than parents of autistic children, autistic children still increased the stress of the mother and family. 

Why?  It all comes down to the behavior of the autistic child.  Autistic children have meltdowns more often than normal children with a lot of irritability, agitation, crying, inappropriate speech, and so on, and on top of that they have a hard time following rules.  For instance, let's say in your house you have a rule that your child is not to go outside after a specific time of day.  Most children will obey that rule after one or two attempts and failures (meaning they are punished in some fashion).  The autistic child will not follow that rule, even if they are punished.  If they have it in their mind they want to go outside, they will. 

So what does this mean?  It means that family life becomes even more stressed than a "normal" family, and as such the parents have a greater strain on their relationship.  Many parents of autistic children tend to have higher rates of divorce than those without autistic children.  The stress of the child's behavior needs to be relieved, and sometimes parents take it out on each other. 

What can we do about it?  Keep in mind the stress, and find ways to release it in a healthy way.  The best way is to develop a family adaptive functioning technique that allows you to adapt to the stress in a safe environment.  As a family, parents need to support each other, and feel support from other avenues.  Because if the parents feel like they are getting support, they are more able to support their children with early intervention and therapy. 

This is why it is so important for parents to have politicians that really get it, and know what the Autistic community needs.  It isn't about who is right or wrong, it's about understanding the need of parents and addressing that need for the sake of the entire family.