Practical Answers for Single Moms Raising Kids on the Autism Spectrum
By Melissa Chapman
April is Autism Awareness Month and according to the advocacy organization, Autism Speaks, autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person’s lifetime and is part of a group of disorders known as autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
Today, 1 in 150 individuals is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls.
Dr. Jed Baker, a renowned expert on autism and the author of No More Meltdowns: Positive Strategies for Managing and Preventing Out-of-Control Behavior, offers single moms raising a child with autism spectrum disorders practical answers, advice and support .
Single Minded Moms: What are the signs that a child might have autism spectrum disorder?
Dr. Jed Baker: Here are some guidelines from the Mayo Clinic and Autism Society websites:
- Fails to respond to his or her name
- Has poor eye contact
- Appears not to hear you at times
- Resists cuddling and holding
- Appears unaware of others’ feelings
- Seems to prefer playing alone — retreats into his or her “own world”
- Starts talking later than other children
- Loses previously acquired ability to say words or sentences
- Does not make eye contact when making requests
- Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm — may use a singsong voice or robot-like speech
- Can’t start a conversation or keep one going
- May repeat words or phrases verbatim, but doesn’t understand how to use them
- Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning or hand-flapping
- Develops specific routines or rituals
- Becomes disturbed at the slightest change in routines or rituals
- Moves constantly
- May be fascinated by parts of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a toy car
- May be unusually sensitive to light, sound and touch and yet oblivious to pain
Single Minded Moms: Once a child is a diagnosed, what are the most effective therapies that single moms should try to secure for their child? Which are ones that may be covered by insurance, and which are ones will likely need to be paid out of pocket?
Dr. Jed Baker: Treatments might include behavior therapy (ABA) to build communication skills and help with challenging behaviors. Other therapies might include speech and language therapy, occupational and physical therapies to help with sensory issues and motor problems, social skills training to build social skills, and possible psychiatric consultation for medication and consultation with gastroenterologists and immunologists for possible intestinal and immunological problems.
Insurance companies vary in what they will pay for, yet often the state will pay for early interventions through the school system, providing ABA therapy, speech and language, occupational and physical therapies and consultation with psychiatrists. Alternative therapies like special diets are not usually covered by insurance.
Single Minded Moms: How can single moms deal with the stresses of learning to cope and care for a child with autism? What are some coping skills that you would recommend to them?
Dr. Jed Baker: There are many autism support groups (contact the Autism Society of America for referrals) that offer workshops, support groups and practical information for parents. Often they offer child care for parents so they can attend a group or workshop. Parents do not have to go through this alone.
Single Minded Moms: Single moms already have so much on their plate—are there any national organizations that may be able to help with the cost of respite care and or therapies which aren’t covered?
Single Minded Moms: How can single moms deal with the emotional toll caring for a child with autism can take on their well-being? What are some practices they can put into place to lessen their day-to-day stresses?
Dr. Jed Baker: Support groups, respite care, early intervention and school can provide parents with needed time to themselves. Don’t feel guilty about taking care of yourself as it is necessary in order to be helpful to your child.
Single Minded Moms: How can single moms deal with the guilt of giving birth to a child with autism- and how can they begin to realize and process the fact that they are not to blame?
Dr. Jed Baker: Autism is not due to poor parenting – it is never the fault of the parents. That being said parents can do things to make things better, like seeking information and help for early intervention.
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