Use Respite Care
Parents also need time away from the child with autism (and his/her siblings.) Many families can access respite care through state service agencies. Many service providers offer respite as a separate service for families and can help identify people to stay with the child while the parents have a night out. If not, parents can post flyers for respite workers at local colleges or share a respite worker with another family. Occasionally, extended family members can be “hired” as respite workers. In any case, parents should commit to scheduling time away from the child with autism (and his/her siblings) at least a couple times each month.
Setting aside personal time can be very difficult. Where does one find “extra” time? What should you do with that time? There may be respite care available to you, and remember that ECHO allows for provisional coverage, which should include respite care. If you have a group of people you trust (e.g. friends, fellow support group members), consider starting a babysitting co-op through which families exchange hours of babysitting. There are websites available that help organize such groups. If you can’t find childcare, you may be able to reserve a couple of hours when your child(ren) is/are sleeping. Once you find that time, use it to choose an activity from a menu of favorite activities that you enjoy and help you decompress. To develop this list, think about those activities that make you happiest and bring you satisfaction. Keep any needed materials as well as your list in one location. This can help maximize the limited time that you may have. You may want to “try on” different activities to see how they work for you (e.g. doing yoga, playing video games, watching a new sitcom).
By renewing your internal resources, you may not only feel less stress, but you may find yourself better able to meet your family’s needs.