March 17, 2010

Growing Up Beside Autism: Part Two

Today, Marylyn (my guest blogger who has a younger brother with autism) gives parents insight on how to parent typical children alongside your child with autism:

  • Prioritize your marriage. The divorce rate among parents of children with autism astounds me.  I am so thankful that my parents remained partners throughout the process of parenting Matt. Take time away from your kids. Find a babysitter you can trust. Fight to spend time investing in your marriage.
  • Allow them to participate in the process of helping your child learn things. Often there is this temptation to isolate your child who has autism because it’s easier to address things one on one. But their siblings are great assets. Engage them in the process of helping your child develop various skills. Express to them how they can help meet the needs of your child with autism. Enlist their help with specific goals you have for your child.
  • Have open communication with your kids. Just as parents have days when they struggle to accept the reality of their child’s special needs, so siblings are going to have days when their siblings embarrass them, when they feel like their parent’s treatment of their sibling is unfair, when they long for more attention. When that happens, talk to your children & listen to their struggles. Even though there may be nothing that you do to change the situation, it is important to struggle to find contentment as a family. Be honest with your kids about the reality of the needs of your child with autism and about your struggles.
  • Set aside special time to give attention to your other children.  We took a lot of trips when I was growing up so that my mom could spend time with my sister & I.  Connect with them on their interests.    
  • Find an activity that the entire family can participate in.  Something that happens a lot in our family is boy-girl segregation. Matt’s tolerance for activities is often limited so we tend to take two cars to places, attend different worship services, and spend time isolated from each other. I really appreciate going to see a movie all together as a family or playing Phase 10. Any time that the five of us can connect is time that I treasure.