For many years, for reasons that are somewhat obscure, there has been a rumor that 80% of couples with autistic children divorce. I decided to do a little research to determine whether that statistic holds any water.
I was absolutely amazed to learn that 64% of couples in the United States divorce! That statistic suggests that marriage, as a whole, is very fragile in today's world. Given that reality, why would families with autistic children fair better than anyone else? Wouldn't they find it even tougher to stay married?
In fact, of course, families with autistic children are under more stress than many other families. There's physical stress related to sleeplessness and -- in some cases -- loud noise, aggression, and other issues. There's financial stress when families decide to pay out of pocket for therapies. And there are disagreements about treatments, schooling, and other issues that become very significant when a child has a disability.
Still, though, you may be surprised to learn the answer to the question above: Does Autism in the Family Lead to Divorce?
I was a little worried about writing this particular article, as the subject can be a touchy one. No one wants to admit that a relative's autism embarrasses them, particularly when that relative is their own child, sibling, or grandchild. But in our society, any kind of a difference attracts negative attention -- and negative attention does, for many of, lead to embarrassment. Take a look at this article and see whether it describes you (at least some of the time!). If so, you may find some of the suggestions are helpful!
Over the last few weeks, I've received notes from several well-intentioned people who seemed to have very little understanding of what autism is -- and what it isn't. And so I wrote this article describing 8 fairly common misconceptions about autism! The bottom line: every person with autism is unique!
Have you run across folks who seem to have only the sketchiest idea of what autism really is? Share your experience!
As you've probably figured out, there really is no "perfect preschool." But within a month after diagnosis with something called "PDD-NOS," Tom was in a good place. It wasn't until I was drinking coffee with another special needs mom, though, that I learned "PDD-NOS" was actually a form of autism -- and that kids with autism have all sorts of services available to them. Whether they need them or not. I also learned a lot more about Jewish tradition, and the pleasures of eating challah once a week!
Catch Up on Parts 1-3 of My Memoir:
When Tom was first diagnosed, I went searching for information and help. This was back in 2000, before online info was everywhere -- and long before Autism Speaks came to be. One of my first experiences with the autism community, therefore, was through the Autism Society of America, which has "affiliates" (chapters) in most communities. I'm still on that group's listserve, as the members have provided me with a wealth of insight and information. But there's more to the Autism Society than your local chapter -- some of it rather surprising.
Read about the Autism Society of America, and share your experiences with a local chapter or national event!
What is it like to be an autism dad? With so many moms speaking up through blogs and memoirs, you might think dads have nothing to say, but you'd be wrong. Here are a collection of essays and resources by autism dads whose eloquence and honesty may speak to you. I also invite you to share links and resources of your own -- or even a guest blog on the experience YOU'VE had as a father raising a child on the autism spectrum.
Barbara Ryan is a regular contributor to this site's Facebook page. She is also the author of a new article about her grandson, Michael, who is diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Read about Barbara's experiences and tips -- and discover how she and her family have helped Michael to build relationships, learning skills, and more.
Autism Speaks is a very large autism-related charity. Founded and run by a very wealthy and powerful couple, Bob and Suzanne Wright, it supports research and programs and does a great deal of advocacy on behalf of people with autism and their families. Why, then, is Autism Speaks so controversial? The Wrights have a very specific view of what autism is and how money should be spent in support of their cause. They focus very largely on the most severe end of the autism spectrum, include few to no people with autism in their organization, and seem to see autism as an unmitigated disaster -- both for people with the disorder and for their parents. Their perspective rings true to many people, but to others it is a gross misrepresentation of the truth.
Read about the history of Autism Speaks, and share your opinion of the organization.
In a world in which social skills are the key to most opportunities, kids with autism are at a distinct disadvantage. Sadly, that disadvantage is sometimes increased by well-meaning adults who choose to overlook intentional misbehavior in "special" children.
While I make no claims to be a child psychologist I do know -- through research and experience -- that structure, consistency, and clear rules of behavior are important for any child. One of the most important jobs we have as parents and teachers is to help our children understand what's expected, and to provide a predictable environment in which positive behaviors are rewarded. That goes double for parents and teachers of children with autism, for whom chaos and lack of structure can be downright terrifying.
We owe our children with autism the same respect, consistency, and support that we owe all our children. Sure, children with special needs may need modifications to the usual rules of behavior. They may need a more flexible approach, and they certainly need more patience. But children with autism, like all our children, deserve consistent rules and discipline that provide them with the tools they need to understand, navigate, and feel safe in their world.
Halloween is a challenging holiday. It requires that children completely change their appearance, behavior, and activities -- just for one night. For children with autism, knocking on strange doors, smelling new smells, eating new foods, and wearing new clothes can be overwhelming.
Fortunately, there are many ways to tailor the Halloween experience for your individual child and family. By keeping your expectations reasonable, preparing carefully, and choosing wisely, you can make Halloween fun for almost any child on the spectrum.
This new article, Tailor Halloween to Meet Your Child's Needs, is a compilation of links and resources to help you create the right costume, choose the right foods, and prepare your child for the right Halloween experience.
Family Events and Your Autistic Child
- Enjoying the Holidays with an Autistic Child
- Tips for Understanding and Managing Your Autistic Child's Behavior
- Celebrate Thanksgiving with Your Autistic Loved One
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