Autism: How it Affects the Family

Family and AutismAutism is defined as a neuro-developmental disorder that is characterized by impairments in social relating languages and by the presence of repetitive behaviors. However, this mental disorder is not to be confused with mental retardation seeing that some people with autism can have high IQs. There are many varieties of cases of autism that range from mild to severe. With my family, my brother Daniel has autism and the severity of his mental disorder is manageable but inexorable. Like with any mental disorder, autism can be very strenuous not only on the individual but on the family of the individual as well. For my family, the severity of my brother Daniels autism has brought both positive and negative affects to our lives.

Every case of autism is different, it varies between person to person because no one is the exact same as everyone else. Daniel for example, was diagnosed with autism around age two. My parents immediately enrolled him in extensive therapy sessions every week every day; as well as visiting doctors on a regular basis for advice on various treatments. As Daniel grew older it become clearer that he may never live a “normal” life. He has no speech, has digestive issues, behavioral problems, and does not learn at the standard rate of other kids his age. For my family and I, autism has drastically affected our lives and how we live.

When it comes to the parents of the special needs child, autism can also drastically change their behaviors and relationships with one another. The love that is shared between husband and wife is something that is strongly cherished in our society. However, with an autistic child the relationship of the parents can become drastically different. According to nation wide statistics “seventy-five to eighty percent of marriages of parents with autistic children fail.” (Harris, 2) This is a very high percentage and it is mostly due to the many financial issues and challenging decisions parents of autistic children have to endure. These parents have to provide their autistic child with therapists, medications, expensive foods, all the while saving money for their child’s future when they become too old to be taken care of, or in worse situations, too dangerous to take care of. In addition to the financial burdens they will also have to make decisions for the duration of their child’s lives not knowing if they made the right one. All of these financial obligations as well as life changing decisions prove to be too strenuous for many parents of autistic children, thus resulting in the end of the parent’s romantic relationship. However, with my parents Daniel having autism has not torn their relationship apart. They made financially responsible choices and they have made plans for Daniel’s future. Being prepared and financially wise has made our families lives easier to handle.

The siblings of the autistic child often face a very hard life as well. Growing up with autism constantly around you makes for a very different childhood. Their parents attention goes to their mentally challenged sibling, often causing the sibling to feel neglected. Also, the parents rely on them greatly for support and help with their autistic sibling. They become the third parent of the home, with just as many responsibilities and obligations.

Autism is a full time job. The parents devote all of their free time to the child who is autistic. Often this attention deficit results in the siblings wishing they were the autistic child. Family therapists say that this is felt by the children because they see what their autistic sibling has to go through on a daily basis and that they wish they can free their sibling of that burden. (Chowka, 2) For me, Daniel is my only sibling. His autism has drastically impacted me and my life. However, my parents gave me enough attention but they did not play into my need to be treated like a child and being taken care of. During my childhood I would often pretend to be sick in order to be taken care of. They have been treating me like an adult for a good portion of my life. However, this has also made me into the responsible and strong individual that I am today.

This mental disorder called autism is a disorder that affects not only the individual but the people involved with the individual as well. The relationship of parents with an autistic child is almost always drastically altered their child’s mental disorder. This is due to the major financial obligations and the tough decisions that they will have to make for their child for the rest of their lives. Also, the siblings of an autistic child can have a very different childhood as well. Quite often, they grow up a lot faster than a typical child in a typical family. In addition, their parent’s attention goes to their autistic sibling often making the child feel neglected. In my case, I am lucky. Although my brothers is non-verbal with digestive issues and some behavioral problems, my parents have handled what life has thrown at them fantastically.

Autism is a serious mental disorder that is affecting millions. It occurs in every one out of eighty-eight children each year. Even though autism is not a fatal mental disorder it is still very important that people become aware of it. The more people that are aware of autism the closer we will get to find the cause and the cure (for those that require it).

References

Chowka, Peter. “As the Incidence Rises, Possible Answers and Solutions Emerge.” Autism. 2001. Laleva. 2000. Web. April 28, 2010
Randall, Luciana. “How Will Act 62 Affect You?” Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Chapter. 2009. Autism Society. 1993. Web. April 28, 2010
Harris, Susan. “Dancing in the Dark.” How Autism affects the Family. 1996. The ADHD Information Library. 1990-2008. Web. April 25, 2010

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