When you are pregnant you are looking forward to the birth of your child and you and your partner will have visions about how he or she will grow up. You will imagine the milestones that the child will hit, as well as the type of friends that your child will have, and your thoughts will even take you far away into the future.
That means you may even envision the high school days, the child’s first date, graduation, and beyond that. The dreams you have of your child will feel so real!
That is only unless the mother found out early on in the pregnancy that the child she is carrying has a disability such as Down’s Syndrome (which means she would have time to prepare herself for meeting the child’s additional needs), the last thing any parent would ever assume is that the child would be disabled such as having autism.
And why would they want to even think about something so depressing anyway? Having a baby is a joyous occasion so let’s leave the doom and gloom out. Until after the baby is born and you are seeing that milestones are not being hit such as a lack of eye contact, interest in others, no babbling, as well as extreme fussiness – then red flags are being raised.
As time goes on and the child’s development is appearing to be delayed, then it would be time to get the child assessed for autism or any other developmental disability.
And once the child has a diagnosis of autism (or any other type of special needs), then this means those visions that the parents once had turn to dust.
Or perhaps some of those dreams may come true if the child begins to receive early intervention such as ABA, OT, or speech therapy. And those therapies are time-consuming, very expensive, and are not guaranteed to help the child much depending on the severity of the disability.
Parenting Children With Special Needs Is Costly On All Levels
Because sometimes you have no choice but to take out second mortgages to fund the child’s therapies which may only marginally help.
That means the child you had envisioned going to college, getting a job, and perhaps getting married one day would end up being that child ending up living in a group home setting being able to only work part-time in sheltered environments.
That is very depressing but a common reality that special needs parents’ face. And while the parents are struggling to get their children the therapies they need which are not easy to do, they have to deal with the stressful behaviors that the child displays that come with autism.
Kids under the autism spectrum will self-stimulate by flapping their arms, spinning, and screeching as well as oftentimes throwing tantrums and having meltdowns.
And many kids with autism will end up wearing diapers for a long time past the toddler stage, and will also be up in the night which means the parents become sleep deprived. Just how they are expected to be when they are caring for a baby.
Parents also have a hard time finding babysitters or anyone to watch the child just to do simple errands. And running simple errands is also a hassle since they would have to take the child with them which means that they would risk having to deal with the child having a meltdown.
That would be embarrassing for the parent and would also cause others around them to be judgemental.
Oftentimes, these parents are not validated, are isolated, are harshly judged, and are not appreciated for how much of their energy they put out while they get very little back. This is the life that entails raising kids with special needs, especially if they are profound or complex.
Many times marriages have ended because of the toll that caring for a child with special needs takes on parents. And this has a negative impact on the mother and father’s mental health.
Especially the mother’s mental health if she is the primary caregiver, and she had to give up her job and the life she was living to struggle to meet the child’s very significant needs.
While the parent is struggling to care for their high-needs child while they are giving up their own lives, as well as getting less sleep, this will turn into caregiver burnout and depression. The signs of caregiver burnout and depression in special needs parents are:
- Extreme sadness and hopelessness.
- Having a hard time sleeping even if the opportunity to sleep is there.
- Overreacting to minor problems or making mountains out of molehills.
- Having a hard time concentrating.
- Feeling extremely resentful of the child, and resentful and jealous of others who have typical kids.
- Having issues with rage and uncontrollable anger.
- Wanting nothing to do with activities and hobbies that once brought the parent pleasure even during a time when the child is in therapy.
- Drastic changes in weight and in appetite which could go one way or another.
- Feeling extremely impatient with those around you, especially towards the child.
- Having suicidal thoughts and if that is the case you must get help right away and see your doctor. (unfortunately, there have been cases of suicides happening for this reason as well).
Physically as well the depressed and burned out special needs parent often catches viruses and infections from being run down. And sometimes the best thing to do in serious situations where the child is getting older is not making progress, and is creating more stress is to call social services.
It must be stressed the fact that the child needs to be removed and placed into a group home or therapeutic setting. Especially if you have other children that are missing out on having a mom because caring for their child with autism or another significant special need turned you into a stressed-out and empty shell.
Parenting is very hard as it is but when you are caring for a child with special needs, it takes a much larger toll on the parents. And it can have a major effect on their mental health.
I had to transition my son at 13 to a residential school as he has combined autism and ADHD, and my daughter was being neglected because I ended up falling into serious depression as this article had summed up my life until my son had left.
After that, very slowly I was able to get my life, my health, and myself back. My daughter got her mom back as well. Parents that have kids with special needs don’t deserve judgment. They deserve compassion and respect. They are dealing with a lot more stress than parents of only kids that are typically faced.