Parenting can be joyful, challenging, confusing, and rewarding – and sometimes all in the same moment! Parenting a child who has autism is no exception.
Caregiving for a loved one on the autism spectrum can present a unique set of experiences and demands. Often, these demands require parents to learn new skills and creatively problem-solve a wide variety of situations. Personal and financial resources may become strained as a parent tries to balance the needs of the entire household. This can create significant stressors for caregivers as they try to meet their own needs, the needs of their family unit, and the needs of their loved one who has autism.
It is vital to the family’s health and wellbeing that parents and primary caregivers connect with formal and/or informal resources to support them as they support their entire family.
Support Groups for Parents
• Autism Oklahoma offers groups called Connection Circles that help create points of connection for persons with autism, their families and friends, autism service providers/organizations, and members of the community. They currently have 13 different groups meeting in locations throughout the state of Oklahoma. Please visit our Support Groups page to see if there is an Autism Oklahoma Connection Circle near you.
• The Pervasive Parenting Center holds monthly parent support group meetings to help families find resources, talk to other families, and provide moral support for coping with disabilities. The meetings are open to everyone including families of children with any diagnosis, professionals, teachers, etc. Please contact Kodey Toney at firstname.lastname@example.org or (918) 647-1255 for more information including upcoming meeting dates.
• The TARC Family Support Program offers a variety of group meetings that typically meet monthly throughout the whole year. The program’s groups include Moms and Dads, ¡Nos Apoyamos!, Teen Connection, and Kids Connection. Please contact Sherilyn or Hannah at (918) 582-8272 to learn more about TARC’s Family Support Services.
Visit these websites to find ready-to-use resources for parents and primary caregivers.
• Vanderbilt Kennedy Center offers multiple parent resources including:
-A Brief Parent Guide on Autism: Information for Parents of Toddlers and Preschoolers, a free guide to download by the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center
-A Brief Parent Guide on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): Information for Parents to School-Age Children, a free guide to download offered by the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center
Sisters and Brothers
Sisters and brothers play an important role in the family as they are often the longest-lasting relationship in most people’s lives. Siblings can provide social play and companionship, connection, positivity and sometimes conflict. Sibling relationships are unique and vary from person to person.
As siblings grow older, they can be called upon to become their brother or sister’s primary caretaker and advocate. It is important that siblings receive recognition, information and support throughout the course of their relationship with their sibling with ASD.
Support Group for Siblings
SibShops is an international, award-winning program that invites brothers and sisters of children with physical, developmental, and/or intellectual disabilities or mental health concerns to come and participate in recreational activities that provide education and peer support.
- SoonerSuccess coordinates SibShops throughout the state of Oklahoma. To find a SibShop near you, visit the Sooner Success website or call (405) 271-5700, x47801.
- Pervasive Parenting also offers a SibShop program in eastern Oklahoma. To learn more about Pervasive Parenting’s SibShop, please visit their website at http://www.pervasiveparentingcenter.org/sibshop.html or call (918) 647-1255.
Visit these websites to find ready-to-use resources to help support the siblings of a person with autism in your life.
• Autism, My Sibling, and Me, a free guide to download by the Organization for Autism Research
• Life as an Autism Sibling: A Guide for Teens, a free guide to download by the Organization for Autism Research
• Brothers, Sisters, and Autism: A Parent’s Guide to Supporting Siblings, a free guide to download by the Organization for Autism Research
• A Sibling’s Guide to Autism, a free guide to download from Autism Speaks
Grandparents have an important role in family life. A grandparent can be a source of unconditional love for a grandchild and provide a safe place for their grandchild to be themselves. Grandparents can also offer love, support, and occasionally respite for their grandchild’s caregiver(s).
Grandparents also deserve to have information and support. Here are a few resources to help grandparents better understand and prepare for supporting their family members as they navigate life with a loved one on the autism spectrum.
Support Groups for Grandparents
• Autism Oklahoma offers groups called Connection Circles that help create points of connection for persons with autism, their families and friends, autism service providers/organizations, and members of the community. Please visit our Support Groups page to see if there is an Autism Oklahoma Connection Circle near you.
• Grandparents of Special Needs Kids (GSKN) is an online private Facebook group for grandparents of grandchildren with a wide variety of special needs. It is hosted by The Sibling Support Project (www.siblingsupport.org), a national organization that provides support for brothers and sisters of people with special health, developmental, and mental health needs. To learn more about Grandparents of Special Needs Kids (GKSN), please visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/GrandparentsOfKidsWithSpecialNeeds/
Visit these websites to find ready-to-use resources to help you support your son/daughter and their family while they navigate their loved one’s autism journey.
• A Grandparents Guide to Autism, a free guide to download from Autism Speaks
• Grandparenting a Child with Autism: How to be a Supportive Grandparent, a video by Dr. Mary Barbera
• Autism and Grandparents: What You Can Do for your Grandchild with Autism, an audio podcast by Dr. Mary Barbera
Individual and Family Wellness
Trying to take care of yourself while being pulled in many different directions can be exhausting! At the same time, it is so important to pay attention to your physical and emotional health. There is a comparison between caregiving and flying on a plane. When a plane is in trouble, caregivers are instructed to put on their oxygen masks first in order to be able to take care of their children. We must remember that in order to be able to take care of our children, we must first take care of ourselves.
Thinking and acting upon our own personal wellness can help us become better prepared for all of the surprises and challenges that life can throw our way. When we think about wellness, we can think about wellness as an approach that focuses upon health, joyful relationships, individual strengths, and personal goals. We can also think about it as “a conscious, deliberate process that requires a person to become more aware of and make choices for a more satisfying lifestyle” (Swarbrick, 2006).
Dr. Peggy Swarbrick, PhD, OT, CPRP, FAOTA, has outlined eight dimensions of wellness for us to consider when we think about the things that we are doing well and the things we wish we would start doing or stop doing (Swarbrick & Yudof, 2017). The eight dimensions of wellness can also help us identify the wellness areas in our family’s life that may need additional support.
The eight dimensions of wellness include:
• Physical Wellness
• Intellectual Wellness
• Environmental Wellness
• Spiritual Wellness
• Social Wellness
• Emotional Wellness
• Financial Wellness
• Occupational Wellness
For more information about each of the wellness areas, please click on the links above. The links will explain what is included in each wellness area, and highlight resources that may be able to help you, your loved one, or your family on your path to wellness.
Swarbrick, M. & Yudof, J. (2017). Wellness in eight dimensions. Collaborative Support Programs of NJ,