Autism Spectrum Disorder: Combating
parental stress and depression
parental stress and depression
A day in the life of the caregiver of a child with ASD can comprise several trials and stressors. Here are some simple To-Dos to make it easy for them.
Dr Kaustubh Mahajan & Niharika Mehta
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a condition linked to brain development that affects how a person perceives and mingles with others, triggering problems in social interaction and communication. The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of signs and severity; Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) starts in early childhood, where children often show signs within the first year. There are challenging moments; it is not easy for the parent of a child with Autism to easily deal with the situations, often leading to increased levels of tension and stress.
A day in the life of the caregiver of a child with ASD can comprise several trials and stressors. A caregiver might be driving their child to numerous appointments, supporting the child’s special educational needs, or dealing with unforeseen tantrums in public. At the end of the long day, they may even be disheartened to find that their child is unable to sleep, often keeping the caregiver from getting the required rest they need. Here’s all that you can do to beat the heat, and stay cool.
START WITH THE SIMPLE CHANGES: These can make a major difference in your overall functioning. It could be making sure you get adequate sleep at night, exercise often, and take some time out for yourself. If these seem to be unmanageable, you can concentrate on even slighter changes such as breaking down your daily routine or asking for help with modest tasks. You might be stunned to know how much of your stress level is within your control, and you may find that caring for yourself has an instant positive impact on your child’s functioning as well.
EMPHASIS ON REALITY AND NOT THE ‘WHAT IFs’: It is easy for any parent to become keenly focused on how their child is evolving, but parents of children with Autism are at particular risk, especially worrying about their child’s future. If you’re feeling hassled, ask yourself whether you’re focused on the reality-based needs of your child or the future. Instead of “What if” ask yourself “What is my duty to my child today and to me?” which can help you direct your focus back to what you can control.
FIND A HELPING HAND: In an ideal world, parents should find time and spaces outside their daily routine where they can concentrate on their emotional and physical health, their interests, and other important relationships. Sometimes the fear of how their child will adjust to a new caregiver can keep parents from looking out for support, but allowing your child to mingle with other adults, will help the child and the caregiver immensely.
TAKE PROFESSIONAL HELP: It is very important to seek professional help to identify mental health issues like depression, which sometimes goes unnoticed. Don’t undermine the outcome of professional help and its role in effectively managing your mental health. Joining supports groups where you can be heard and also have a chance to connect with resources & information that can reduce associated stress & Depression, can be extremely helpful. It is also important to take some time out and see your physician to make sure that you are in good physical shape and that there aren’t any other complications adding to the stress.
(Dr Mahajan is Consultant Neurologist at SL Raheja Fortis Hospital, Mahim, Mumbai, and Ms Mehta is Psychologist, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi, Navi Mumbai)
(Image from Pixabay)