In my humble view, if you are a part of a family dealing with Autism you need good quality, regular therapy as a family, and as individuals. In truth, every family could probably benefit from regular therapy.
18 months ago things hit a critical point in our family. Things were falling apart. At that point, Chris and I knew we needed to seriously review our game plan. We found ourselves a relationships and family therapist, and after about 6 months we then found a child psychologist for the boys. I will admit we have struck gold on both counts. Both therapists are male and are fantastic, amazing individuals and professionals. I cannot emphasise how much this therapy has changed all of our lives for the better.
I think there is a tendency to focus all the intervention, worry and therapy at the individual in the family with autism. But that individual is one member of a family, and each member of the family has needs that should be met. It’s really hard to keep this balance in check with objectivity and consistency when you’re in the midst of it. This is why therapy is so important. This has become very clear to me in the last 12-18 months.
Each of us within this family unit has our own needs, worries and stresses. Because of the level of stress we are often under, I feel that therapy gives us each a voice and gives us the tools and strategies to manage our stress. The level of stress in mothers of children with Autism has been compared to that of combat soldiers http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2009/11/10/autism-moms-stress/6121/ The stress of living with a sibling with Autism brings with it a myriad of pressures, and clearly raising children places its own pressures on parents and their relationship. Plus there’s just general life “stuff” that everyone could use a hand with irrespective of their personal circumstances.
I think we can all tend to assume that asking for help is a sign of weakness. I think this is a key reason why many people resist therapy. It’s hard because to ask for help you have to admit vulnerability and most of us tend not to be comfortable with that. The truth is, at some time of our lives we all need help.
We need to empower one another to ask for help by being supportive and positive when others ask us for help or clearly just simply need our support. As a society we’re often not very compassionate to those who experience hardship or protracted periods of difficulty. We really do need to change that. Once upon a time we had that village mentality and it was certainly a more compassionate, supportive and reciprocal (give/take) world than the one we live in now. We need to teach our children to be compassionate and helpful to others, and we need to model both asking for help and gratefully receiving help so that they might take this into adulthood with them. Asking for help can be a challenge but asking for assistance can help you to remain strong. You need that and your family needs that.