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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The first thing every parent should do is obtain support in helping their child to recover from autism

All parents want what is best for their child and will do just about anything possible to help their child recover from autism or a related disorder. However, few parents are reminded that taking care of themselves is paramount to helping their child recover. Amber Kane, an autism specialist, parent consultant and owner of Autism Connection, offers the following advice.

  • The first thing every parent should do is obtain support.

Specifically, two types of support: parent to parent support, which is not difficult to find using the internet, and the support of a consultant – but not any consultant – one that matches your needs, and that can be difficult to find.
Parent to parent support is going to yield the greatest and most immediate benefit to parents. There are few professionals who have children with autism and those people may understand and be able to provide support and advice, but for the most-part, professionals lend a different kind of support by way of advising parents on how to handle their child. What parents need is simple: friends that have been there and understand because they live it.

In my opinion, obtaining parent support is as critical as treating autism. Being supported and empowered can be the catalyst to obtaining and maintaining treatment, because many interventions require substantial energy, time, money and emotion. Few can do this alone without becoming depleted or overwhelmed.

Consultants come in all shapes and sizes and use a variety of titles. If at all possible, I recommend finding a consultant who is a highly educated, very experienced person able to help you with real-life goals and situations that arise at home and in the community; not only in educational settings. A huge word of caution: anyone can call themselves a consultant; there are no regulations in this field, so parents should take their time finding a consultant to work with.

The benefits of having a consultant that focuses on real-life instead of one treatment program, is simple: autism affects every single minute of every single day sometimes and many challenges are just part of daily life. An educational consultant may not be able to help in a way conducive to home, just like they may not understand financial limitations or other personal factors directly affect the choices of parents.

More often then not, parents will have questions and need help overcoming challenges such as, sibling rivalry, screaming, behaviors, hitting, not eating, stimulatory and sensory issues and countless others that are not exclusive to school. Another realistic hurdle is many, if not most, parents simply do not have time to execute a regimented, structured program at home because, simply put: life is going on!

Another advantage of a private consultant is gaining support for the entire family and not only focusing on the child's disability. Siblings have to deal with autism; parents are responsible for entire family, household, careers and their interpersonal relationships.

I know what parents face and need because I have a son with autism. His sister is eight and has no disabilities, so I know because I live it. To almost contradict what I said earlier, it is imperative a parent consultant have academic and professional training and experience directly applicable to helping you, or again, it can be a waste of time and resources, so this is why I propose finding a consultant in this capacity can be challenging. Never be under the impression that if you would go through an agent you would get good consultants. That's not true. I got a very good consultant just by posting an ad in Craig's list.

I know my advice thus far is not earth-shattering and it may seem too simple. However, I can assure you with 100% certainty that you will reap countless and necessary benefits once you have the support needed – even if you don't think you need it, you soon will.

To locate other parents for support, the web is a great place to start and online support is wonderful, since it is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and will allow you to meet more people then imaginable. However, in addition, I highly recommend finding a local parent group or individual families that you can meet face to face with for support and socialization; not to mention sharing local resources.

To locate a consultant you have fewer options, but it is possible. Keep in mind there are consultants specializing in every niche of autism, so you may have an idea of where to begin based on your personal beliefs and treatment choices. Ask other parents, review and interview consultants who are referred and take your time making the decision to hire.

Of course you have a lot going on and your main focus is helping your child recover from autism. An integral part of that however, is taking care of and supporting yourself so you are in the condition to help your child. Other parents and a parent consultant, with firsthand experience, can make challenges seem smaller, progress come quicker and relieve the feelings of loneliness that commonly surface while parenting a child with autism. You can do this and there are people to help, so reach out, get connected, get empowered and get going.

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