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Top 10 Tips for Handling Guilt

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Updated June 15, 2007

No matter how much you do for and with your child with autism, you're probably feeling guilty. In part, that's because no one knows what causes or cures the disorder -- so anything you did could be at fault, and anything you do could help. But guilt can be crippling -- and can even get between you and your ability to be your best parent. These tips may help you to take a deep breath and set guilt aside, at least for a little while!

1. I somehow caused this problem!

We know that autism can't be caused by a lack of love. But was it that tuna you ate when you were pregnant? The vaccines you allowed your pediatrician to give your child? Since we don't know what causes autism, it can be easy to decide it was your fault. Chances are, though, that genetics -- something you can't control -- plays a significant role!

2. I can't leave any stones unturned!

What if that new therapy you just read about was THE therapy -- the one that would have cured your child if only you'd tried it? No one wants to think they denied their child a cure for a lifelong disability. But remember that one-on-one time with a loving adult is always a plus -- and it's unlikely that that new high-tech "cure" is the next penicillin!

3. I should be spending this time on therapy!

You picked up a book while your child was watching TV -- and now you feel guilty. After all, every second counts, and you should be engaging him all day long. It's a nice idea, but even superparent can't be on call for their child 18 hours a day and still stay sane and healthy. Remember that your health and welfare count too!

4. I should be spending this money on therapy!

You broke down and bought that new jacket -- and now you wonder why you didn't spend the money on therapy...autism books...learning toys...or something else for your autistic child. But your child is only one member of your family. You worked hard for your money, and your child will never miss that one extra session of therapy!

5. I should be making time for my other kids and my spouse!

If you're the primary caregiver for a child with autism, you may be too overwhelmed to give other family members the time and attention they crave. While it really is important to make time for others in your life, it's also ok to ask for a few minutes to regroup...take a walk...or otherwise clear your mind. Your kids and spouse deserve your focussed attention -- something that's tough to give when you're still in "therapy mode!"

6. Other people do more for their autistic child!

And other people are thinner, fitter, richer and have bigger homes too! Comparing yourself to other families can be helpful if those others offer support and ideas -- but it can be destructive if it leads to a constant sense of guilt. Remember: you may not know your neighbors financial or personal resources, which may be much greater than yours.

7. I should be pushing for more (fill in the blank) for my autistic child!

Depending upon what you read or who you listen to, you'll hear conflicting advice about what your child needs. More inclusion or less inclusion; more or different therapies; more or different activities, play dates, and so on forever. But even a typically developing child can get overwhelmed -- and an autistic child needs fewer transitions, less intensity and more structure than most. Maybe you do, too...!

8. I should be learning more about autism!

There's always more to learn. And if you live in a metropolitan area, there are always seminars, support groups and events to attend. But there's more to life than autism -- and it might make sense, just for once, to hire a sitter and go to the movies with your "significant other!"

9. I should be working faster!

Publicity about the importance of early intervention has caused a panic among parents. The suggestion is that there's a window of opportunity early in life -- and that that window closes sometime around age three. The truth is, though, that kids (and even adults) continue to develop and grow. While early intervention is important, it's not the only key to your child's ongoing success!

10. I should give up more for my child!

It's true that some families give up everything for their autistic child. They mortgage their homes, give up their careers, and end any "extras" to pay for therapies. This is, of course, a valid choice. But not every autistic child needs such a high level of commitment to thrive and grow. Your decision needs to take into account not only your child -- but you, your spouse, and the life you've chosen together.
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  5. Support for Parents
  6. Tips for Handling Guilt When You Have an Autistic Child

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