Ways for Parents of Autistic Children to Cope

Being the parent of any child, while exhilarating, can also be very difficult. But when you’re the parent of an autistic child (autism spectrum disorder -ASD), it can feel overwhelming. There’s a whole world of autism knowledge to learn, not to mention the special needs your child will have. 

The bright side is that you’re far from alone. Millions of people have been through it before, and we know more about autism than ever. And when you need a little help, you can refer to this list of tips for coping when you’re parenting an autistic child.

Ways for Parents of Autistic Children to Cope
*This is a guest post and all opinions are those of the author. This post may also contain affiliate and/or paid links. Rest assured that I only work with companies and individuals that I trust. While some of those companies and individuals may work in the medical field, this post is not intended to be a substitution for medical advice. Always speak to your doctor if you have concerns about your mental or physical health.
Ways for Parents of Autistic Children to Cope

We’ve divided them up into two sections. The first is a set of tips focused on your child and helping them cope with the world.  The second focuses on things that can be good for your knowledge base and personal mental health. 

For Your Autistic Child

Being the parent of an autistic child is hard, but so is being someone who is autistic in a world designed for people who aren’t. As a parent, part of your job is helping your child learn how to deal with that. What we’ve put together are some tricks and tools you can use to make it happen — when you find what works for your child, it makes everyday life easier for you as well! 

Behavior and Communication Therapy 

A major part of ASD is issues with personal interaction. But, especially if you get an early diagnosis, therapy can work wonders. Ultimately, behavior and communication are skills that can be improved, even if you have a different starting point. Working with a professional is almost always the best way to do that. 

Therapy is the most recommended treatment for autism because it meets your child where they’re at and helps them improve. There are several other kinds of therapies that are also available, like educational or family therapy, and as a parent, you can decide if you think they would be beneficial for your child’s situation. 

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Tools To Prevent Sensory Overload 

Sensory Processing Disorder doesn’t always go along with ASD, but they often go hand-in-hand. The bright side is that there are plenty of tools out there to cope with it. Learning what throws your child into sensory overload and then working with them to find ways around it can be a huge help in everyday life. 

Whether that just involves looking for certain kinds of products while shopping, like extra soft clothes that don’t have tags, or buying specific tools, like headphones to muffle sound for loud events, managing sensory processing disorder at home will make everyone feel better. 

Set A Routine 

Autistic children thrive on structure and routine, so it’s important that you establish one at home that you can stick to every single day. Make it clear exactly what you’ll be doing, when, and what’s next and refer to it regularly so your child feels more in control and knows what to do after finishing each task instead of filling the downtime with problem behavior. 

Don’t feel confined to a text schedule or calendar app, either. Many parents have found that visual schedules, with pictures of what your child should be doing, are helpful for kids with communication problems because images are always clear. You can also consider using videos, or something else entirely. Whatever works for your family is what’s best. 

Clearly Communicate Changes 

Unfortunately, life doesn’t always run on schedule. Sometimes emergencies happen and you have to alter your schedule or make different decisions on the fly. But whenever you can prepare your autistic child for upcoming changes in anything from their schedule to getting new furniture for your home, it’s a good idea. 

Start by explaining to your child that something is going to change, and tell them exactly what it is, ideally starting a few days to weeks beforehand. Then work on reminding them about the change into their routine, like bringing it up every day when giving them lunch. They might still get anxious when the change happens, but preparing them for it still makes it easier.


For You 

When you become a parent, it takes over a significant amount of your life. But you still have needs that are important, and you can’t pour from an empty cup. So here are some tips for helping you as a parent cope with the everyday realities of having an autistic child. 

Find and Accept Help 

They say it takes a village to raise a child. When it comes to having a child with autism, between your regular support system and their therapists, doctors, and teachers, that village can feel more like a sizable town. This is a good thing! Your child has special needs, but there are more people who care and want to help. 

Accept the help when it is offered, particularly if it comes from someone where it’s free of charge (after all, having a child with autism can be expensive). Whether it’s family or therapists, in the form of expertise, or just a desire to make your life easier, take it. It’s not a failure on your end if you can’t do everything on your own. In fact, it’s impossible to do it alone, so embrace it. 

Join Support Groups 

No one will ever have your back like your partner, family, and friends. But if they don’t have experience with parenting a child with ASD, then they won’t always understand what it’s like. That’s why it’s invaluable to join communities of people who are going through the exact same thing you are, including a few people who have been there before and can give you advice. 

Whether you need a place to vent with parents who get it, suggestions on products to help with sensory processing, or you have questions and you’re not sure where to turn, support groups can give you the backup you need. Go to one in person or join one online, just so long as you make sure you have that resource. 

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Take Advice With a Grain Of Salt 

No one should give a new mom unsolicited advice, but this often happens. Even if you seek out help, other parents still only know what worked for their kids. Dr. Stephen Shore famously said: “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” If someone gives you advice that doesn’t work, know that you might not be the one who is wrong. 

Expert advice holds more weight since they look at things objectively and are highly educated on the subject, but there’s still so much about ASD that nobody understands. Never be afraid to get a second opinion or disregard advice that isn’t working. Your primary source of information is never someone outside the family, it’s your child and whatever is working for them. 

Take Time For Yourself 

Being a parent is one of the most wonderful and fulfilling things you’ll ever do, but it’s also exhausting and constant. If you need to have someone else look after your kid and take a day for yourself to relax and unwind, that’s okay. You’re not a bad parent for needing time away from your child. 

Use your village (or town) of support and take the day that you need when you need it. Instead of burning out, getting exhausted, and having limited patience, you’ll be rested so that when you’re back to spending time with your child, you’re energized and present. 

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Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself 

There are so many things to do and be aware of when you’re the parent of a child with autism that it can feel like you’re always behind and you’re never doing enough. That feeling gets compounded if you’re also working an 8-5 job, even if you know that you need the job to make ends meet. Accept that you’re doing the best you can, and let go of everything else. 

Whether you do that with religion and trusting in a higher power, giving yourself a mental health day, or leaning on your friends, when you give yourself a break and acknowledge that you’re not perfect, doing the best you can not only become easier, it becomes a true joy.


Parenting an autistic child won’t be anything like what you expected parenthood to be before. But with some help and a few coping mechanisms, you’ll find that no matter what your child is like, being a parent is one of the best parts of the human experience. 


Author Bio:

Aaron Smith is an LA-based content strategist and consultant in support of STEM firms and medical practices. He covers industry developments and helps companies connect with clients. In his free time, Aaron enjoys swimming, swing dancing, and sci-fi novels. 

How To Improve Your Sleep Schedule 

Between your daily responsibilities and your responsibilities as a mother, it can be tough keeping up with it all. Typically, one of the first things mothers sacrifice is their sleep so that they can make enough time to fulfill every need. We understand this lifestyle takes a toll, so let us help you by showing you how to improve your sleep schedule so you can feel as rested and energized as possible. 

How to Improve Your Sleep Schedule
*This is a guest post and all opinions are those of the author. This post may also contain affiliate and/or paid links. Rest assured that I only work with companies and individuals that I trust. While some of those companies and individuals may work in the medical field, this post is not intended to be a substitution for medical advice. Always speak to your doctor if you have concerns about your mental or physical health.
How to Improve Your Sleep Schedule

Schedule a Bedtime and Wake Up Time 

Much like how your baby or child has a bedtime, you should also set one for yourself. Keeping a strict bedtime will condition your body to be ready for sleep at that exact time, which will make it easier for you to settle into bed and fall asleep. Similarly, you’ll want to set an alarm and pick an exact wake up time for you to get up on a consistent basis.

On mornings where you have extra time, it may seem like a good idea to try and get some extra sleep. Although tempting, you want to stick to your schedule. Oversleeping will make you feel groggy and just as tired as when you went to bed, whereas having a set wake time will regulate your body to feel energized once you’re up and ready to go. 

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The Role Diet Plays in Your Sleep 

You should strive to eat healthier to improve your sleep schedule. Food is your body’s fuel, so knowing when to eat and what to eat will keep you from accidentally staying up too late.  Try to stick to a healthy diet with the right amount of vitamins and minerals

Fast food may be tempting for its convenience with your busy schedule, but processed junk food is high in sugars and carbohydrates. This will keep your body abuzz when trying to sleep and you’ll likely spend more time twisting and turning throughout the night. On the other hand, you don’t want to go to bed hungry, otherwise your body will be far more concerned with eating than sleeping. 

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Learn How To Get Back To Sleep 

One of the greatest challenges for some mothers is having to wake up in the middle of the night to tend to their babies and then trying to get back to sleep. If you have trouble going back to sleep, the best way to improve your sleep schedule is by making it about relaxation instead of sleeping. If you focus only on sleeping, you’ll become impatient and fixate on what’s making you uncomfortable. Instead, do a quiet activity for a little while until your body begins to feel worn out once more. Your bed will feel incredible once you get back into it. You can also look into natural sleep aids to help if you’re still struggling with sleeping.

 

Postpartum Anxiety Insomnia 1
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Author Bio

Christina Duron is a writer living in the Chicagoland area. Her passion for writing and mental health help create thought provoking and engaging pieces and hopes to use them to empower mothers and women to embrace the beauty of motherhood.

This is Why There’s No Shame in Sleep Training

Sleep training can have a bad reputation among the parenting community.

This secret shame in sleep training comes from it’s association with the cry it out method.  The name alone suggests something very traumatic for both moms and babies alike.  But it’s important to note that the cry it out method is not nearly the only form of sleep training.  In fact, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different ways that parents sleep train their babies.

So I’d like to make it loud and clear for all moms everywhere that there is absolutely no shame in sleep training your baby!
This is Why There's No Shame in Sleep Training
*This post contains affiliate and/or paid links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust. Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.
This is why there's no shame in sleep training This is why there's no shame in sleep training

Defining Sleep Training

There is no shame in sleep training because all parents do it, whether they realize it or not.   To “sleep train” is to help a baby establish healthy sleep habits.  But there are so many different ways that can be done, it all depends on the baby and the parent.  Some parents choose to do this using more rigid guidelines, while others prefer to let their babies take the lead.  Either way, it’s still considered sleep training. 

#sleeptraining
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Baby-Led Sleep Training

Babies are born with the natural instinct to sleep, eat and eliminate.  Their wakeful periods gradually increase with age and as they grow, their little personalities begin to show.  These personalities will give you a hint as to what kind of sleep they prefer. 

For Example:

    • My introverted first child was a great sleeper and still is, 10 years later.  He likes quiet, darkness and solitude.  He never slept well in a shared bedroom and was easily distracted by lights, sounds and toys in his room. 
    • My anxious second child has always suffered from sleep disruptions and needs quite a bit of intervention in order to fall sleep, including the use of night lights and white noise. 
    • My easy-going third child can sleep anywhere without problem, as long as she has her special bunny. 

Baby led sleep training methods mean following your baby’s sleep cues and letting them show you how and when they prefer to sleep.  This can require a lot of patience and may mean more night-time waking, but many parents are up for that challenge.  You can also expect a baby-led routine to change several times as they grow and develop different needs. 

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Parent-Led Sleep Training

Sleep training methods that have more structure and routine are considered parent-led methods.  Many are based on adjusting baby’s instinctual sleep habits in order to make it work for a parent’s lifestyle.  And these are the ones that moms often feel shamed for, or feel the need to shame others.

Sleep training is not selfish. 

Most parents choose to do it because that’s what works for their family.  Mothers suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety in particular may need that added structure.  Sleep deprivation can be a big trigger for mental health issues and therefore, a routinely sleeping baby is a necessity.  Sleep training a new baby can also help avoid sleep disruption for other children in the home.

Sleep training isn’t cruel, either. 

(At least, it shouldn’t be if done correctly.)  While I am not a sleep training expert, I do firmly believe that leaving a baby to cry alone by themselves does not teach them how to sleep or self-soothe.  Crying is a baby’s way of communicating and we should never take that for granted.  But sometimes, a baby cries because they feel overstimulated or overtired and need some space, so holding or rocking them is not always the solution.

Parent-led sleep training methods can require a lot of consistency and a certain level of self-discipline.  Creating a strict bedtime routine for a baby means committing to doing it for years to come, but some parents are willing to make that sacrifice in exchange for a better night’s sleep.

How to Start Sleep Training The Moment You Bring Baby Home
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Stick with One or The Other

A mistake most parents make is beginning with a baby led sleep approach and then trying to switch to parent led sleep training when the child is older.  Of course there will be tears and baby will put up a fight, because change can be difficult for everyone.  So if you plan on letting baby take the lead right from the start, then expect to follow through on that.  Or you can start incorporating a more structured bedtime routine as a gradual process. 

If you do plan on sleep training your baby, then try to start from the moment you bring your baby home.  Obviously, your newborn isn’t going to start sleeping straight through the night, but remember, that’s not what sleep training is about.  There are several things you can do to ensure they develop a good routine and sleeping habits.  This way, you don’t need to worry about making drastic changes to their routine as they grow.  

There is No Shame in Needing Help

If your baby isn’t sleeping no matter what you’ve tried, that doesn’t make you a failure.  When it comes to sleep training, there is a lot of advice out there but there is no manual or one tried and true method.  

Thankfully, there are professional baby sleep training consultants available.  I have personally used and would recommend the Baby Sleep Site (read about my personal experience with them here).  Trained professionals take into account your family life, other children’s schedules and your own health and well being to create a routine that works for you.  They’ve dealt with the various sleep habits of thousands of different babies and have the experience to help you.  Sleep training can be stressful, so it’s good to have some support and guidance along the way. 

Since May is Maternal Mental Health Month, use the code MOMS20 to get $10 off one The Baby Sleep Site’s VIP Membership Packages
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Quit the Shaming!

Motherhood is not black and white and when it comes to sleep training, there is a lot of grey area.  Ultimately, what works for one family, or one baby, will not work for everyone.  So let’s quit with the mom shaming about sleep training.  Moms who sleep train are not being cruel or selfish.  And moms who follow their baby’s lead are not spoiling them.  All moms are doing what they feel is best for their baby, themselves and their families and that’s the only thing that truly matters.