10 Self-Care Tips for Parents with Kids on the Spectrum

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6. Take your family to sensory-friendly events
This is really about finding balance between routine and fun. When your family is able to spend time in the community doing "normal" things, it can help everyone feel more "normal." For example, AMC Lynnhaven in Virginia Beach has at least one sensory friendly movie showing each month. This is usually a Saturday morning matinee and is always popular. The volume is turned down, the lights are kept on, and the previews are shortened or eliminated. This crowd knows and understands disability, so no one is going to get unnerved if your child has a meltdown or flaps his hands.

7. Consider using a tracking device
It can be much easier to utilize respite or babysitting opportunities to relax if you are not concerned about your child's safety if they were to wander off. Of course, make sure you choose responsible individuals to begin with, but things happen. Project Lifesaver provides a tracking service for a very low monthly fee and is able to locate individuals within 30 minutes if they are contacted right away. The initiative has been life-changing for many of our clients.

8. Encourage independent playtime
Work with your child or loved one to have a semi-structured period of independent time each day. It can be easier to start with short periods of time, such as 10 minutes, and work up to 30-45 minutes. It is helpful if this can be at the same time each day and in the same room. Give her one or two activities and explain that she can play by herself for X-number of minutes and to come get you if there is an emergency. Make sure that you use this time to relax and rest yourself.

9. Consider Support Groups
Many people have heard of attending support groups, but this sounds too much like "therapy." Tidewater Autism Society of America lists many informal events each month on it's meetup.com group. One event that many parents in our office like is the Coffee & Chat meetup. It's informal and supportive.

10. Address your own issues regarding the disability
Disability is not something we expect or hope for when we have children. Parents find it difficult to find time and energy to work through the feelings of grief and loss that naturally arise in these types of situations. Once you are able to work through some of these things, you will find yourself more emotionally and physically able to manage the situation at home and provide the best possible care to your child.


Nikki Schwartz is a Counselor Resident at Spectrum Psychological and focuses on using neurofeedback, play, and talk therapies to provide practical, effective counseling to families and clients.

Photo Credit: appliedvitals.


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