Receiving the news that your child has autism can be very emotionally challenging, and as found in a study undertaken at the University of Missouri-Columbia, it can also pose major financial struggles that families are not initially aware of. Just a few considerations families have to make decisions on including specialized childcare, different options for speech and language therapy, and schooling. The diagnosis can change family dynamics in many ways. The Autism Society says that “Parents/caregivers must now place their primary focus on helping their child with ASD, which may put stress on their marriage, other children, work, finances, and personal relationships and responsibilities.”
In addition to ensuring that other children (if your child has siblings) are well informed about autism and why your autistic child will require therapy and time, it is important to build a strong network of people who can work as a team to help with things like chores, school runs, and sports events. A Concordia University study showed that parents of autistic children do report higher stress levels. However, social support is a powerful way to reduce stress. Researchers stated, “The impact of chronic caregiving stress on health likely becomes more pronounced as parents age and their immune system responds less efficiently to challenges.” They added that social support was key, even when a child with autism entered adulthood.
There are many new advances that can help children with autism reduce their stress levels and cope better. Amongst these are bilateral stimulation or tapping devices, which significantly reduce beta waves (stress) and which are used successfully with children with autism. It can help them with issues such as difficulty falling asleep, tantrums, and performance anxiety. In addition to EMDR tappers, another technology that is proving successful with children with autism is virtual reality. New research undertaken at Newcastle University has found that immersive virtuality can help autistic children battle specific phobias. EMDR equipment is easy to use, and indeed many children find tapping to be an instinctive and soothing activity.
In addition to seeking psychological help for family members having difficulty adjusting to a diagnosis of autism, parents should also seek financial help as early as possible. This will enable them to analyze the types of treatment they can afford, and to weigh up decisions such as whether or not one spouse or partner should reduce work hours, or whether a residential or other change may be necessary. Those who are eligible for Medicaid should know that some states disregard income for individuals with autism who require an institutional level of care. In the University of Missouri-Columbia study mentioned above, scientists stated, “There is strong pressure to do everything you can for your child. However, there is great potential for families to spend a lot of money on therapy or new ideas that may be ineffective. Careful evaluation of therapies is important.”
If your child has just been diagnosed with autism, it can indeed ‘turn your world around.’ Being informed financially and medically about all the options open to you can help you create a strategy and reduce the stress associated with insecurity about your future. Taking a practical approach is key, and this means doing as much as you can within your means and embracing new advances that are proving to make the lives of other children and families easier and more manageable.
*This blog post was written by Lucy Wyndam.
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