How to Parent When You or Your Partner Has Autism/Asperger’s
Are you or your partner autistic/Asperger’s, and are raising children? It’s true that some people’s autism characteristics are to the degree that successful parenting may not be realistic. But for many autistic people, it is very possible to raise well-adjusted children. And when both parents work together, it can result in a more nurturing, stable family.
If you suspect you or your partner is autistic, and have not been diagnosed, it is often helpful to be evaluated. Having the knowledge of what your strengths and challenges are, will help you learn what to do in the best interest of yourself, your partner and your children. There are online quizzes you can take as a preliminary step to help determine if you might be autistic. But seeking a formal diagnosis can be very helpful.
While there are a great deal of differences among autistic adults, there are a number of challenges that tend to be common when parenting:
- • Difficulties understanding and interpreting your child’s non-verbal communication, including gestures, facial expressions, abstract language, etc.
- • Sensory sensitivities that may cause you to react with irritability, such as noises and active play.
- • Difficulty understanding how to play with your children.
- • Challenges with the unpredictability of your children’s behavior, especially when you are absorbed in what you are doing.
- • Getting overwhelmed by your child’s emotions.
- • Becoming irritable and angry with you child for things that are typical child behaviors.
Strengths you can bring to the relationship
- • If you have an autistic child, you will understand him or her better, and can give advice on coping and adapting to stressful situations.
- • You may be able to have the organizational skills and provide the structure children need.
- • You may be more honest and direct when teaching your children.
Steps to Improve Your Parenting Skills
1. When a parent is autistic, it’s important to acknowledge and accept not being perfect. Avoid blaming others for problems in the family, or trying to control others. Take responsibility by being open to learning and changing.
2. Look for solutions. Don’t look for fault or blame.
3. Understand your strengths and weaknesses, and help your family members understand them as well.
4. Ask questions when you don’t understand something, especially how others react and behave.
5. Work with your partner and have him or her take over when you become upset and react emotionally.
6. Learn how to play with your child. Take one step at a time, or play for short periods. Ask your family to help teach you how to play. Be open about your challenges. Your children will most likely appreciate your efforts and enjoy teaching you.
7. Develop coping strategies and share them with your family. For example, when you get home from work and need time to adjust to being home (this is not only an autism issue!), agree that when you first get home, you take 15 minutes to be in your room by yourself. Or, if it bothers you when your children play loudly, set up times for quite play and noisy play, and when it’s noisy playtime, that’s your time to put your headphones on, or garden outside!
8. Have everyday routines that are consistent, including getting ready for bed, getting up in the morning, and any chores. It can help to have visual schedule for your children with words or pictures.
9. Look for activities that your family can enjoy together with little stress, like going to a playground or trampoline park. This will be unique to your family, because what is enjoyable for some families may be stressful to others.
Feel free to contact us for help and support. We offer a free 15 minute introductory phone call.