Autism Impact on Family Lifestyle
Psychological disabilities cause numerous challenges for families with a member who suffering from any of them. The difference in a children’s behavior and skills in comparison to a typically developed child demands parents to be patient and caring, but it also brings many additional responsibilities. Furthermore, a child, who has been diagnosed with autism, will live a long life, so the responsibilities to provide care to them are prolonged in the continuum. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a disability that impairs the psychological development of a child, and this disorder may be suspected during the first year of their life. Nevertheless, the exact signs are commonly observed in children between the age of 2 and 6 years old. In most cases, this disorder affects an individuals communicative skills and the ways of interacting with other people and delays the development of their speaking ability as well as the skills of reasoning and planning. The disorder is caused by numerous factors, including genetic inheritance and environmental impact; however, the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is made obviously considering all behavioral changes and their severity. Due to the numerous specialties of persons behavior and skills development, an individual with ASD brings significant changes to the family lifestyle during their entire life cycle and influences their habits and personality traits.
The first and the most significant impact, as reported by all researchers on the families with children with ASD, is a high level of parental stress. Thus, the literature analysis by Ooi, Ong, Jacob, and Khan (2016) has revealed that mothers and fathers of such children experience higher levels of stress than those who raise normally developing children; However, the reasons for being stressed as reported by fathers and mothers contribute to the different aspects of their child’s behavior (Ooi et al. 2016). The childs behavior demands extremely high levels of patience and understanding from parents, which means they must control their emotions to prevent exhibiting rude and embarrassing attitude towards their child. However, not voicing the issues that annoy day after day might lead to the further increase of the level of stress that needs to be solved in some other ways.
The main reason that causes stress to the parents of autistic children is the absence of a possibility to manage their time. The study by Hartmann (2012) indicates that all daily routines are changed according to the child’s unpredictability and the inability to control their behavior. Thus, assaults are often registered in the morning hours due to sensory issues that are connected with getting dressed and prepared for school. Consequently, parents are late for work, which may cause arguments with their colleges and superiors, and their child can also be late for school. However, in this study, parents have mentioned that routines in familiar place are much easier than in the less frequently visited places or outdoors (Hartmann, 2012). Therefore, parents are unable to plan their activities, for example, when they do not have much time to change their transport during a journey or they cannot come in time to the theatre. They should always remember that their childs meltdown may ruin their plans.
A great challenge for parents is to raise their children when one of them has ASD and another one is a normally developing child. Since the child with ASD has numerous special needs, all activities in the family are adapted to them (Ooi et al., 2016). Therefore, it becomes difficult to meet the needs of the normally developing sibling due to lack of time and limited possibilities to get both children involved in the same activities (Ooi et al., 2016). The child with ASD has limited interests that might differ from the siblings ones. Consequently, the family is bound to spend time separately or perform the activities that fulfill their ASD childs wishes, which might ruin the relations between parents and the healthy child.
Another concern of stress for parents and siblings are legal issues. These are stressful enough for most people in general, but for the for parents of the child with ASD, this stress increases manifold. Thus, it is difficult to discuss the cases of death or disability for some people; however, the parents of a child with autism must be more responsible to find solutions for these cases. When the child with ASD becomes an adult legally, most parents have a hope that they will become independent enough to live their life on their own. Nevertheless, in most cases, such individuals still need parental care. If in this case parents assume guardianship of their child after the latter has reached legal adulthood, they should designate a person who will be responsible for this child after their death or disability (Autism Society, n.d.). Such a decision is difficult for both the parents and the possible guardian because this will significantly change one’s life. Therefore, this person should be well informed and prepared to meet all the requirements of care.
Marriage and Family Relationship
Since the majority of family actions are influenced by the child with autism, relations between the marriage partners and other family members become affected as well. In some cases, as Ooi et al. (2016) report, the child with ASD can unite the family, thus making them closer. The researchers claim that parents stopped arguing on trivial issues and set aside several points of disagreement, concentrating on the needs of their child (Ooi et al., 2016). While learning to be patient with their childs behavior, they transfer this tolerance onto their own relations. They become more supportive in emotional and practical aspects. Furthermore, other relations, which sometimes become strengthened in such a situation, are within an extended family. Tuhs, Ooi et al. (2016) claim that in a number of cases, secondary family members, such as aunts, uncles, nieces, and cousins, become involved into the care of the child with autism, which is highly appreciated by mothers and described as significant help. Another research, performed by Hartmann (2012), indicates that grandparents are the most supportive family members in most cases. They provide emotional and instrumental support, assuming some responsibilities of taking care of this child and feeling great empathy to the parents (Hartmann, 2012). The familiar interactions with family members, apart from parents, expand the circle of comfortable communication for a child with ASD and provide relief to parents, thus reducing their stress.
At the same time, problems with an autistic child might strain the relations in a marriage. Some findings claim that the child with autism has led to divorce (Ooi et al., 2016). Taking care of a child with autism takes much time and energy, so the married couple has less time to themselves. Moreover, some disagreements on parenting and arguments may occur, thus causing recriminatory blaming for their child to have ASD. Finally, mothers might feel lonely when raising their autistic child because of the fathers detachment from this issue.
Relations with Friends
Psychiatric diagnoses cause great misunderstanding and even fear among unaffected society members. The participants of the study by Ooi et al. (2016) claimed that they felt lonely since their interaction with friends was ruined. People around them were unable to understand what happened to their children and why. Moreover, it became almost impossible for such people to attend social activities because of fear to get troubles with their child in front of others (Ooi et al., 2016). Such parents also reported cases of judgment and criticism by the strangers who claimed that they shouldnt go out if they cant control their child (Ooi et al., 2016, p. 751). Most people try to distant themselves from the deeds and behavior by ASD child they do not understand, which leads to the particular isolation of affected children and their family members. Another point that can affect negatively friendly relations is the attempt to explain how the child with ASD is different from the stereotype. Thus, Grosso (2011) claims that it is easier to understand that every autistic patient is unique and very different from one another when communicating to other families with such children. The special need of a child leads to the emergence of new interests for parents as well as themes to speak about that differ from the ones discussed with their old friends. Naturally, new friendship relations to the parents of ASD children begin to emerge as well.
Making a successful career for the parents of an autistic child is almost impossible due to the latters need for attention and care. At the same time, serious financial issues are common for the families of such children. Various therapies, including attending a psychologist, medications, and a special school in severe cases, are not covered by health insurance (Paltrow, 2015). On average, these costs constitute 14% of the familys entire income (Paltrow, 2015). At the same time, parents should look for a part-time job to be able to spend more time with their child, but such jobs cannot give them proper salaries. The other reason for financial stress for relatively poor families, who have children with autism, is to provide enough personal space for their children (Heeks, 2009). Sometimes, children should stay separated from each other to prevent constant argument and fights. Therefore, the parents inability to work more and constant debts for therapy make the idea of a bigger apartment almost impossible to achieve.
ASD Influence on Siblings
Since children who have siblings spend much time together, especially in early childhood, they learn from one another and acquire socializing and cognitive skills. The heritability of ASD is evaluated approximately at 50% (Sandin et al., 2014), so the siblings of ASD children are at high risk. However, the genetic factor is not the only one to determine the diagnosis of ASD since children may copy the autistic behavior of their brothers or sisters (Ferraioli & Harris). This becomes a challenging part of cognitive development, especially for younger normally developing children. However, the prognosis for a sibling of ASD child is not that straightforward. Thus, several pieces of research show an absent or even positive impact of having a sibling with ASD (Ferraioli & Harris, 2009). The authors also state that the childs ability to adjust successfully depends much on their access to social support and by the severity of their siblings autism (Ferraioli & Harris, 2009). The school that a regular child attends and the amount of time spent on different social activities would benefit their development and enable them to form good and understanding relations with their autistic siblings.
Siblings relationship differs much in most families; however, it depends on the severity of autism and relationship inside the family in general. For example, Hastings and Petalas (2014) state that the relationship between siblings is often impaired when the child with ASD has significant behavior problems. Typically developing children often feel frustrated when their social advances are rejected or ignored by their ASD siblings (Ferraioli & Harris, 2009). They are often hard to understand why their sister or brother act aggressively towards them, so they might assume he doesnt like me or he is mad at me (Ferraioli & Harris, 2009, p. 46) to explain it. Such concerns are often present in younger children, but upon getting older, their relations and interactions change.
In pre-adolescent and adolescent age, children start to understand more about their siblings disorder, which makes them more caring towards the latter. They start to worry about the siblings future and start taking care of them (most often, according to their parents initiative). At the same time, they feel rejected due to their parents favoritism since they parents spend more time with their autistic child (Ferraioli & Harris, 2009). Even typically developing children also demand attention from their parents, but they do not receive it, which leads to depression and behavioral changes as well as negatively affects their relationship with parents. Most parents make their normally developing children take care of their ASD siblings, which sometimes leads to arguments and their annoyance. An example from Heeks (2009) study shows that the reason for the negative relationship between siblings is not completely shared information about how the care should be provided. This may be avoided by spending more time while discussing strategies with the responsible sibling for preventing a meltdown of their ASD brother or sister.
Still, some children who do not feel any discomfort being with their ASD siblings in public. They feel love and devotion towards their brothers and sisters (Hartmann, 2012). One of the participants of the study stated, that playing and having fun was the best part of having a brother with autism (Hartmann, 2012, p. 57). This kind of relationship enables typically developing children to grow as caring and kindhearted ones, thus fostering their other positive traits.
Careers, Relationship with Opposite Gender and Friends
A social life for normally developing children might be affected by their sibling with ASD. Such a child, with all their needs and specialties, may restrict their healthy siblings ability to have friends and attend some social activities since the latter have no chance to leave their autistic brother or sister alone (Ferraioli & Harris, 2009). This fact would build some kind of isolation for a typically developing child, which may lead to internalizing behavior and even depressive disorders. In this case, not only friendly but also relations to an opposite gender might suffer. While marriage and creating a family are an important decision made by all adults, they can be affected by having an autistic sibling. Knowing that their children might inherit autism, they begin to hesitate whether they want to have children at all. Deciding not to have children narrows a circle of potential partners because this is a significant part of a marital relationship for most young people (Ferraioli & Harris, 2009). In this case, some siblings of children with ASD might remain single for a long time in their adulthood. When it comes to building a career, a significant number of siblings of ASD children might decide to continue taking care of them in adulthood. Siblings can grow into good-tempered and highly tolerant individuals. These qualities allow them to work in the caregiving professions such as nurses or social workers (Heeks, 2009). Surrounded by healthcare professionals and psychologists during their formative years, they have a strong background to become a professional in caregiving.
A child with ASD has a significant influence on their family members, affecting not only parents but also siblings and secondary relatives. The special needs of a child with autism limit their parents private life, leaving them too little time to spend together. Their social interactions are also impaired due to the judgment and fears of society members. Their work and career are affected as well, while the treatment and creation of appropriate conditions for their children demand significant finances. The entire family is often involved in the provision of care to a child with ASD. Specifically, grandparents are reported to be very supportive, while siblings are also highly influenced by the child with ASD because of their close and constant interaction while growing up. Moreover, they are affected during their entire life cycle since childhood until adulthood; however, their interaction changes with time. Feeling jealous or rejected in early childhood, their attitude shift to being worried about their siblings future and then to the responsibility and love in adulthood. Growing up with a child with ASD develops several personal qualities that allow a typically developing child become a responsible professional in the field of personal care.