My Family Advices

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How Does Autism Affect Families?

  • Effects of Autism on Families

Families of children with autism spectrum disorders face challenges from the moment they begin to suspect that the child has developmental issues. If you ask psychologists how does autism affect families, they will say that the emotional impact, financial difficulties and physical strain are tremendous. The stress of coping with complicated therapy schedules, home treatments, job responsibilities and family commitments can be devastating for family members. Having a child with autism requires a great amount of energy and time from the entire family. This can set them apart from other family groups and isolate them. Communicating with the child is difficult, and often family members develop a hyper-vigilance so they can ensure the safety of the youngster. Although these difficulties may seem overwhelming, in time families learn to adjust and cope.

  • Emotional Impact

Specialists wanted to know how does autism affect families and asked mothers of autistic children to rate their mental health state. Most often, they rated their health status as fair or poor, experiencing a much higher stress level than other people. The emotional roller coaster starts before the diagnosis is made and continues for the entire life of the family. Besides having to care for an autistic child, parents also feel guilty that their child cannot lead a normal life, judged by society and don’t know what is the best way to handle the situation. Living with someone with autism means that one parent cannot work. This may lead to families breaking up or to a massive financial burden. Autistic children often have disturbed sleep patterns and require constant supervision, which can become physically exhausting. Moreover, parents can become isolated and angry with the doctors, their spouse and even themselves.

  • Impact on Marriages

One of the most common impact autism has on families is by stressing the parents’ marriage. A study published in the Journal of Family Psychology reveals that parents who have an autistic child are 10% more likely to divorce than other married couples. But how does autism affect families and the relationship between parents? This disorder can affect the marriage in several ways. The fact that parents accept the diagnosis in different ways can generate conflict. Because of inconsistent schedules and the difficulty in finding a carer, spending time together and going out as a couple becomes almost impossible. Moreover, the financial difficulties and the fact that one parent will probably stay home and care for the child can cause additional conflict.

  • Impact on Siblings

Autism spectrum disorder also affect the siblings who face the same amount of stress and pressure as the rest of the family. However, siblings may not have the parents’ support because they are overwhelmed by the needs of the autistic child. In a family with children with autism and typically developing children, the rivalry between them can become more intense. In some cases, siblings even become carers for the autistic child in an effort to assist their parents. The siblings can feel left out and suffer from a very stressful environment. Furthermore, neglect and strain is well documented as having long term effects. According to a study in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, the biggest predictor of sibling emotional adjustment is the absence or presence of risk factors such as a low economic and social status. Controlling these factors can improve the psychosocial and emotional health of the typically developing siblings.


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