Stress is an ever-present reality for military families, especially those affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It affects the entire family. And stressors vary from everyday struggles (e.g., financial burden of care and treatment, handling routine chores and tasks, maintaining relationships with family members and friends, etc.) to the challenges associated with military life (e.g., deployment, relocation, etc.). Awareness of these stressors can make these issues easier to bear.
Caring for a child with ASD can be a major financial burden. The cost of deductibles, copays, home safety, repairs, etc. can add up to thousands of extra dollars each year. Setting aside as much money as possible now can help cover the cost of future care.
Here are some ideas to help lessen the financial burden of care:
Daily chores and tasks can also be a major source of stress. Now that you are a caregiver, you may need to plan out activities in advance and think through things that you may not have had to consider in the past. For individual caregivers or those temporarily serving as primary caregivers (like during a deployment or military training event), family and friends often live far away and are not able to assist with care. You may be responsible for everything from haircuts, shopping for groceries, and helping with the tasks of daily living, sometimes while also maintaining full-time employment. In these situations, caregiving can feel overwhelming at times.
Caring for a loved one with ASD can be a great source of stress on relationships including couples, siblings, grandparents and other extended family members, friends, etc. Friends and family members sometimes have to restructure their lives, inherit a broad range of burdens, and make sacrifices or special accommodations. These experiences can strain the relationship and cause much stress.
A major stressor for parents and caregivers with children with ASD is the future care and well-being of the child. Families may be concerned about what to do when the child turns 18 years old, availability and eligibility of care and treatment, and who will care and provide for the child after they are no longer able. Learn more
Parents and caregivers likely agree that safety issues are a significant concern when caring for a child with ASD. Depending on the severity of the child’s condition, they may lack certain skills that would help to determine if a situation is safe. It is important for parents to discuss how to recognize and avoid potentially dangerous situations along with what to do if the situation is unavoidable. Whether at home or in public, securing a loved one’s safety requires time and planning. Being proactive about home and public safety is critical. The following tips can help protect your child regardless of the environment.
Children with ASD and other special needs may be more likely to find themselves in dangerous public situations than their peers. Public safety risks can be even higher for military families. Frequent relocations make it difficult for individuals with ASD to learn their surrounding or to distinguish strangers from friends. Learn more about public safety risks to help protect your loved ones from harm. The BigRedSafetyBox from the National Autism Association provides public safety information about common concerns including wandering and water safety.
Caregivers are sometimes guilty of spending so much of their time and energy caring for others that they neglect their own needs. Although it may seem like you are doing the right thing by placing other’s needs before your own, it is important to remember that if you do not take care of yourself, it becomes harder to care for those you love.
Self-care is a common struggle for many caregivers. When trying to balance work, family, and life, taking time for you may bring up feelings of guilt. However, practicing routine self-care is one of the best ways to ensure that you are providing the best care to those you love. If self-care is an area you feel you struggle with, here are some strategies that can help:
Establishing relationships and being close with others is a basic human need. For caregivers, strong relationships are essential to well-being. Your support system can provide emotional support, offer advice, and help you to overcome the challenges and struggles of caring for a loved one with ASD. While military service can make it difficult to maintain relationships, here are tips to help keep networks strong and also build new connections:
NOTE: Caregivers need support. Trying to do it alone can be damaging to you and those around you. Strong attachments give us a secure base, and the more connected you feel, the more separate, autonomous, and resilient you can be.
At certain times, people, and especially caregivers, can benefit from assistance and support. Some signs that professional support may be necessary include:
If you or someone you know is experiencing these or other social or emotional problems that interfere with the ability to function as usual, it is important to seek help right away. Military families and service members have several options available.