Receiving the news that their son/daughter suffers ASD causes a great impact and shock not only to the parents but also to the rest of the family members. This first stage causes anxiety and tension due to its multiple repercussions on family life and the social environment.
Having a child with autism entails a series of additional tasks and responsibilities that add to existing ones. The fulfillment of therapy schedules, expensive treatments, job responsibilities and social commitments increase the levels of family stress progressively affecting married life.
Concern about covering the expenses related to therapy sessions, as well as necessary medication, deepen the difficulties of this challenging stage that the family must face from the moment of diagnosis.
This is when the family must urge everyone to work together to address the situation, leading in many cases to the emergence of fears, irritations, uneasiness, tensions and concerns that can disturb the harmony and stability of the family circle in several ways.
The parents of autistic children must meet the needs of all their children and that of the family. However, this stage is crucial since it can strengthen or weaken the family bond. Once the situation is addressed, it is necessary to create a system of support and to work hard to try to overcome the situation.
How does an ASD diagnosis affect families?
The diagnosis of an ASD child involves the adoption of a series of typical changes linked to the disorder, thereby generating emotional disorders in the family before and after the diagnosis, indefinitely.
A child with autism consequently brings a significant burden of stress and concern to family members because they have to assume all the elements intrinsic to the condition, that is, everything that it implies.
Family members of people with autism suffer more emotional disorders compared to the rest of the population. In addition to the accumulation of emotions, relatives of children with autism may feel the following:
- Discomfort due to the behavior of their children in public
- Social isolation
- Feeling frustrated at not having the parental experience they expected
- Feeling guilty for feeling responsible for what their children must overcome
- Concern and burden for autism being an incurable disorder
- Irritability and discomfort towards themselves, the specialist, and spouse
- Impotence for not being able to resolve their child’s condition
The news affects marriage- causing high levels of stress for many reasons. The parents of a child with autism come to accept the diagnosis in various ways. This can cause problems between the couple since both can perceive and assimilate the situation differently.
Sharing as a couple becomes somewhat complicated due to the commitments and schedules of each one. Usually, getting a person to take care of a child with autism is a somewhat complicated task, since private child care does not have specialists who can cope with this condition.
Children with autism require special attention, therapy, and appropriate treatment. This causes financial depression that alters the family budget and that could bring problems between couples.
Impact on siblings
A child with autism may have neurotypical siblings that are also affected by the restlessness and anguish of the family environment.
They may even feel neglected because the parents cannot provide all the support they require since they’re busy and overwhelmed, trying to meet the needs of their child with autism.
This can cause jealousy and rivalries between siblings. A child with autism demands an investment of time and special attention; often, his/her siblings feel excluded, causing resentment towards them.
However, many families have managed to overcome this stage by detecting and controlling the causes of stress.
The parents of a child with autism should plan their family budget and include additional expenses in consultations, therapies, and treatments prescribed by doctors and autism specialists.
The financial burden that the condition implies can alter and reduce family income. Furthermore, most private insurers do not cover these needs and are very expensive.
The co-payment system can help to level the budget and to cover expenses for the purchase of medicines and frequent office visits that increase the financial debt of the parents, but for this to happen, the parents must have a full-time job.
Full-time work is difficult because one of the parents must resign to devote more time and pay attention to the child with autism, which prevents them from enjoying good health insurance.
The family has to face a large number of expenses that alter their financial situation despite having a limited budget.
The first step that a family should take with a child with ASD is to assimilate and internalize that their life changed. Understanding how this affects them allows them to overcome problems and improve interfamilial relationships.
Going to places where guidance and family counseling is received can be very useful and helpful for parents of children with ASD, especially to improve marital communication between couples, while psychotherapy is used to treat the emotional and psychological part.
Another alternative is support group meetings that you can attend to learn about other experiences of parents with children with autism, who can propose solutions to many of the family’s problems.
It is good to keep in mind that parents must take care of themselves and maintain a comprehensive balance in order to take care of their children with ASD.
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