Taking Care of Yourself

A Parent's Guide to Autism

Caring for a child with autism can be physically exhausting and emotionally draining. Parenting responsibilities can create extraordinary stress. Trying to balance your time and energy with the needs of your other children, the needs of your marriage and your own personal needs is not easy. It takes time to find a good balance and put it into practice.

What you can do for yourself right now:

  • Practice self-care.
    • Even if it is just for 15 minutes a day, take a breather. You need to take care of yourself in order to be able to take care of others. Take time to yourself so you can run errands, relax or enjoy time with your partner or other family members.
  • Acknowledge what you have accomplished.
    • It’s easy at the end of the day to think about all the things you haven’t been able to do that day. But this tends to discourage us from trying later. Instead, think about all that you did accomplish that day. You will be amazed at how long that list is, and you will feel better about getting started the next day.
  • Focus on the positive.
    • Nothing in life is perfect. Every situation has positive and negative aspects to it. Focusing on the positive, such as the progress your child is making or the amazing speech therapist you found, will give you the energy you need to move forward.
  • Continue family rituals.
    • When possible, continue your family routines or rituals. This will be helpful for your entire family. It may be a Friday night trip to the movies, or Sunday lunch in the park. Tradition and rituals give your family an increased sense of stability and create fun times to enjoy together and to remember.
  • Give yourself time to adjust.
    • Be patient with yourself. It will take some time to understand your child's disorder and the impact it has on you and your family. Difficult emotions may resurface from time to time. There may be times when you feel helpless and angry that autism has resulted in a life that is much different than the one you had planned. Remember, you will also experience feelings of hope as your child begins to make progress.
  • Make time for your friends.
    • Many parents report that long-lasting friendships have given them the strength and comfort during the most difficult times. If you feel isolated, it’s time to take action.
  • Explore creative interests outside of autism.
    • Try to exercise or explore some creative interests. Take the time to realize that you are important and are more than just the parent of a child with autism.
  • Get involved with the autism community!
    • Sometimes families of individuals with autism find themselves feeling isolated from others. It is important to connect with families that share similar experiences and seek the support of others. We encourage you to reach out and come together with other families at one of the many Autism Speaks Walks held around the country.
  • Respite Care
    • If you don’t have a family member or friend to babysit, find respite care in your area so you can recharge and focus on yourself even for a short time each week. Building a relationship with a respite provider gives you a reliable caregiver for your child if there is a family emergency. Respite care allows you to take a break in order to relieve you and prevent stress and fatigue. To find Respite Care in your area, please look at our online Resource Guide for your state’s information.

Read more from A Parent’s Guide to Autism.