Autism Occurs Within the Context of a Family
I went to a conference a few weeks ago where Dr. Felice Orlich stated something that really caught my attention: Autism occurs within the context of a family. How true these words are! Yes, my son is diagnosed with Autism, but honestly at times I want to just put a huge diagnosis sticker on my whole family that states in big huge letters AUTISM. In our own ways, we are each effected. And together we go through the ups and downs of Autism, as a family unit.
I have spoken before about the impact the diagnosis of Autism had on myself and my husband. And it continues even years later to impact us emotionally. But when I heard this statement about how it occurs within the context of a family, I really got to thinking about how our family changed, and how we are different than the typical family.
Here are some things that look different for our family, simply based on the fact that my son has Autism and we make adjustments according to his needs:
- Going out to eat is earlier before the loud crowds get there
- Vacations tend to be places where everything is at one place, such as a cruise or resort
- Pre-boarding the airplane before anxiety gets too high
- Going to sensory-friendly movie showings at movie theaters
- Doing errands and other things first in the morning before behavior gets difficult
- Going to bed shortly after our son falls asleep as we never know what kind of night our son will have, or how much sleep we will get
- Rarely having free evenings, as therapies and appointments keep us pretty busy
- Arriving early to anything so there is time to process before it begins
- Often leaving early from things because the wiggles just become too much
We have just accepted it for what it is. Our lives have changed and they do look a bit different from other families and that is ok. We make adjustments when needed and our son always has to come first. So yes, our son may actually have the Autism diagnosis, but in reality that diagnosis makes an impact within the entire family dynamic.
I often watch the siblings within the family of a child with Autism closely as well. So much of their life is impacted because of their brother or sister with Autism. It is always interesting listening to their stories and trying to understand their needs. If you have a child in this role, be sure to give them the support they need, but also the love they need as well, as it looks vastly different from the child diagnosed with Autism.
I always say I would never change my son! He is perfect the way he is! I give him the tools he needs to help him succeed in life. But I cannot change who he is. The quicker I can understand that, and the quicker my family can understand that, the better our family is for coping with the Autism and serving our son with his needs.
Counselor and Behavior Therapist