Being the primary caretaker of an autistic child is exhausting. Many times, when a child is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, other family members withdraw, leaving Mama Bear all alone to deal with literally everything.
Remember that helpless feeling of knowing your infant was sick and hurting but unable to tell you where? Remember how frustrating it was trying to decipher your little one’s cries? Is he hungry? Is she hurting? Where does she hurt? Is he angry? Remember how wrung out you felt at the end of one of ‘those’ days? Now imagine that stage of life lasting for years and years. This is life with a non-verbal, autistic child.
And the frustration isn’t one-sided. Often a child on the spectrum will strike out and have a meltdown simply due to the frustration of not being able to communicate.
Imagine never hearing your child spontaneously say, “I love you.” Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes.
My daughter, Mama Bear, is lucky. J is on the spectrum but is slowly developing verbal skills. She’s still exhausted, though. Can you imagine potty-training a child that can’t tell you when he needs to go? Granny Bear and Grandma Bear try to help, but the majority of the work falls to Mama Bear.
There’s a reason airline attendants tell you to place the oxygen mask over your own face before helping put it on others. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else. The hardest thing for me, and Mama Bear, to do is ask for help. Do it! Ask for help if you need it, and even if you think you don’t. And don’t feel guilty about it. I f you know a caretaker, offer help even if they don’t ask for it. Make sure they are eating right, getting enough rest, and taking some time out for themselves. Most Mama Bears, in addition to being the primary caretaker for their autistic Baby Bear also work full-time, take care of the home, and struggle to keep the rest of the family going. This doesn’t leave much time for Mama Bears to take care of themselves.
GLENDA THOMPSON, aka Grandma Bear, resides in Charlotte where she is hard at work on the first novel in a series about Texas Rangers with dark secrets. She is also writing a series on Autism for the Pleasanton Express. These are a combination of research and personal experiences.