Family Counseling: It's Worth It.
Becoming a parent is one the greatest joys in life. Practically every parent remembers when they found out that they, or their partner, was going to be having a baby. However, parenting does not come without its fair share of difficulties. Becoming a parent requires a surplus of love, care, and balance as well as commitment. Besides the typical experiences that come with being a parent, being a parent of an autistic child brings about its own unique joys and challenges. Alicia Trautwein is an autism advocate, writer, motivational speaker, and mom of four; she is also the creator of the website The Mom Kind. Her knowledge of autism comes from her own diagnosis as well as the diagnosis of three of her children, as well as her niece and brother. On her blog, she posted an article "5 Ways Family Counseling Can Help Autism Spectrum Parents" to provide parents of autistic children with the information they need on the subject of family counseling as well as encourage them to go with their own children and spouse. If you are not already aware of what family counseling is, it is a therapy approach where the family members are counseled in order to pinpoint any underlying issues and create a plan of action to address them. Family counselors address any concerns that may be directly affecting some members of the family and try to connect them to become a support system for one another. While Autism Spectrum Disorder is not curable, it is manageable, especially when you have the right information and training to jump any hurdles that life throws at you. The first thing that family counseling can do for you and your family is help you get acclimated with the diagnosis. Initially hearing your child's doctor diagnose your child with autism can be overwhelming, and understandably, your mind can be flooded with anxiety or guilt, among other feelings; All of these thoughts are valid and well-placed. Meeting with a family counselor can help you ease into the reality of ASD and help you understand and acknowledge your feelings and give you the emotional capacity to raise your child. Meeting with a family counselor can also help prepare your entire family for raising or living with a child who has ASD. For younger siblings and other neurotypical members of the family, this diagnosis can be challenging to understand. Family counselors can be helpful in this regard, for two main reasons. First, the neurodiverse sibling(s) can have a safer and more accepting environment to grow up in and, secondly, neurotypical siblings can become an asset for the neurodiverse child(ren) in the family. Another thing that family counselors can do is aid you in being apart of your child's life. They can help you navigate life with a child who has been diagnosed with ASD. What you do outside of these sessions is up to you, however, they can help you gain the perspective you need to better understand your extraordinary child and the things that make them who they are. Family counseling can also help save your marriage. Having a neurodiverse child can be pretty daunting to couples and researchers in this field have found that with "weak" marriages, this diagnosis can be the final straw. A counselor can help you and your partner understand just how much your child needs you and how important a loving environment is to providing a positive experience for the child. They can also help you be prepared and acknowledge your roles as your child's guardian. The next thing that a family counselor can do is help you help others. The point of seeing a counselor is not to make you an expert on the topic or to make you become a counselor yourself, it is simply to give you the tools and information you need to improve your situation and possibly make you a community member who's accountable and responsible for creating a safe space for neurodiverse people. There are still so many people out there who do not understand or are unacceptable of people with ASD and as parents, being an advocate is a crucial responsibility of yours. The bottom line of this article, Trautwein says, is that you provide unconditional love for your child and accept all of their quirks and conditions. Being a parent to a child with ASD, or any child at all, can be overwhelming and stressful and it comes with many questions and moments of "failure" and learning, however, you can take the steps to gain information and guidance that will help you and the rest of your family be the best "safe space" for the neurodiverse child in your family.