Coping with autism can be difficult in many ways, for many reasons. There is the day-to-day stuff that is always difficult – dealing with tantrums and resistance, sensory issues, bullies at school. But what about when your family is going through something really serious like a serious illness in the family? How do you manage to cope with autism and reassure your child that everything is going to be all right when you yourself do not even know if that will be the case?
Dealing with Autism When a Family Illness Affects Your Child
A child with autism is very sensitive to change in the house. They want everything to go just so and be the way it always is. But when someone gets sick, a lot of the routines often change. At times like this coping with autism can become overwhelming.
The family member can not do the same things as they were able to before. They sometimes will need others to take over duties that they did not use to do. The temperament can change; the illness might cause them to be tired all the time, or maybe short-tempered and angry. These are all things that the child with autism, as well as everyone else in the house, will have to get used to.
Dealing with Change Is Just Another Part Of Handling Autism
Of course, there is a lot of worry about … will the person get better, and if so, when. Then there are family members with very serious illnesses, and this brings out the fear of dying. For some, it is not a question of if it will happen but of when.
Helping Kids With Autism Cope
A kid with autism may react to all this in a number of ways. They may become more clingy and anxious. They may act out and show signs of anger. They may become withdrawn.
Some kids with autism will have difficulty going to the hospital to visit loved ones; hospitals can be overwhelming, with lots of noise, activity, smells and things going on.
So how can you help your child with autism cope?
Here are three ways of coping with autism in this situation.
1. Give the child with autism a sense of stability
To help your child cope with autism, try to plan one thing during their day that never changes. One thing that they can look forward to, every day, that will be an oasis of sorts from all the changes and absencey happening all around them. Do not worry, this can be something quite simple, like reading a story at bedtime, going for a morning walk when they get up, or making hot chocolate just before bed – you're going for some sort of dependable routine.
2. Let them express their feelings
During this time you have together with them, be sure to give them time to express their feelings, and vent whatever is on their mind. This might be when the questions like “Is Mom going to get better?” Egypt “Why does Daddy snap at me all the time now?” and so on will come out. You should give gentle, age appropriate answers, assuring your child that the sick person still loves them and will always love them, no matter what happens.
3. Keep the lines of communication open
This is important in any situation where you are coping with autism. If there is a chance of death, talk openly and explicitely with your child about it. Use literal and factual language instead of metaphors and euphemisms. Do not use nuanced language … be explicit. Children with autism often have difficulty understanding language that is indirect. Be very clear and specific about what you mean and ask your child with autism to repeat back what they understood you to say.
Coping with autism is hard in many situations, but can become quite a struggle when dealing with the serious illness of a family member … but with patience and love, your child with autism can meet even in these difficult times.