Are you the mom of a child with autism or just searching for a loved one? Just the word Autism has sent my world spinning this year. Autism. What does it mean? What does it look like? How do you work through all the emotions of the word and the impact it has on your life without going crazy? That’s not a leading question, I’m genuinely asking. Being an autism mom brings many confusing emotions but I was not expecting Autism mom burnout to be so real and hard to work through. Today I want to share hope with you, my fellow special needs mom if you are overwhelmed, exhausted, and feeling guilty for needing help.Being an autism mom brings many confusing emotions but I was not expecting Autism mom burnout to be so real and hard to work through. Today I want to share hope… Click To Tweet
Hope When Facing Autism Mom Burnout
“He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”” Psalm 46:10 NASB
You and I are different. We come from different backgrounds, cultures, and religions but if you are here you either have a child with special needs or you love someone who does.
I don’t often write about special needs parenting so if we haven’t met I just want to say,
Welcome. I pray you find grace and hope among a community filled with other Christian women, Christian mom, who are just trying to do the best they can, raise their children to know and love God and keep their sanity while doing it.
God blessed Bud and me with two beautiful little girls, the youngest of which has special needs. We’ve known from the beginning that she had special needs but it wasn’t until this year that she was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Severe ADHD Combined Type, and a list of other things that makes my heartbreak if I’m completely honest.
This past year we have been learning how to cope with autism and family stress God’s way. I’ve shared more about that at Lullaby Lark
But today I wanted to share how the stress of parenting a child with autism has affected me personally and the strategies God has been teaching me to face and heal from Autism mom burnout.
How do you Deal with a Child with Special Needs?
My Special Needs daughter is almost 8-years old. We’ve known for the beginning of her life that she had special needs though we didn’t have her evaluated until this year because of fear. Isn’t that crazy? I was sure that I could google the behaviors and find parenting strategies to help us through the hardest parts. The doctor reassured us that sometimes children grow out of behavioral and developmental delays.
But by 3-years-old we knew there was something more than a developmental delay. Can a 3-year-old grow out of autism? No.
I am full of regrets and wish I could go back and begin the process then, but I can’t.
Hours were spent Googling “How do you deal with a child with special needs?”.
- How can I help my special needs child develop better social skills?
- Is there a way to know when inappropriate behavior is a special needs issue or a behavior issue?
- How can I disciple my special needs child’s heart when the behavior is always the focus?
- Will I always have to educate people about special needs to be sure my child is treated well?
- What will my child’s future look like with special needs?
Those are still the questions I have and there aren’t hard and fast answers but I still have to ask the questions. Can you relate?
Here are some Special Needs Resources for Parents from Lullaby Lark
Autism Mom PTSD
Asking the wrong questions for too long and refusing to get professional help can cause unexpected problems. If you’ve been around Hope Joy in Christ for a while you know that I have Anxiety and PTSD more specifically. I have lived in relative victory over Anxiety for many years but without the past triggers, it all came back to life about 2 years ago.
I did all the things that you do when you suffer from Anxiety.
- Meditate on scripture – Here are 40 Bible Verses to Overcome Anxiety
- Take walks and practice yoga
- Listen to music
- Replace negative/toxic thoughts
- Adjust your diet
When none of my anxiety maintenance strategies helped I scheduled an appointment to see my counselor. We talked through all the old issues and the current situations in life and she suggested it had to do with something new, new stress that has triggered the past PTSD.
I didn’t even know that was possible. Anxiety and PTSD are such difficult issues to completely understand and manage. We met and brainstormed but I just couldn’t even process well at the time. It wasn’t until the diagnosis of Autism that we were able to find the cause of my PTSD Flare-up. I struggled to embrace labeling my special needs child.
The amount of stress that comes from special needs parenting can cause PTSD in even an otherwise healthy person. When the person already has mental health conditions at play the threat is that much more possible. Just google some of these if you think I’m joking:
- Autism mom PTSD
- Autism parent stress index
- PTSD from raising a child with Autism
- Caregiver burnout special needs
- Autism parent depression
- Autism mom depression
- Exhausted Autism mom
Related: Bible Verses about Hope and Healing
More than Just an Exhausted Autism Mom
I have a relapse of PTSD from raising a child with Autism. Can you relate to my shock? Completely balled over kind of shocked. I knew I was exhausted. Honestly, the word Autism is still so fresh in our world but we have been living with the effects of raising a child with Autism or Special Needs for nearly 8 years.
For months I have been emotionally spinning out of control trying to rectify the future I had envisioned for my daughter with a future I can’t even imagine now. And now I am learning about an offshoot of a mental health issue I have to get under control if I am ever going to be the mom she needs me to be in this journey we are on together.
This was more than just me being an exhausted overwhelmed special needs mom. Autism exhaustion goes deeper than that.
Autism exhaustion encompasses a mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical kind of tiredness that I never understood before. This is the kind of tiredness that comes from asking questions that have no answers.
- How can I help my Autistic child with stress?
- Will my autistic son have a normal life?
- Will the side effects of medication harm my child?
- How do you give an 8-year old meds when she can’t communication the side effects?
- How can I stop losing patience with my autistic child?
Don’t get me wrong, all moms worry about their kids. Asking questions in the middle of the night about your kids’ future, behavior, salvation and the like are normal parts of parenting. There just feels like this extra weight of responsibility to raise a child with Special Needs. Do you know what I mean?
Strategies for Healing Autism Mom PTSD and Autism Mom Burnout
When you become a mom you become the advocate for your child, the nurse, the nurturer, the interpreter, the potty trainer, the laundress, the taxi…
When you are a special needs mom you become that to a new level because others are unsure how to care for your child. There are special needs to consider, special diets, medications, alternative discipline and all that. So often you see the autistic child too attached to the mother. That is at the heart of Autism mom PTSD or Autism mom burnout. Codependence at a new level
I did that. My daughter has food allergies and aggressive behavioral issues that make her a handful for any babysitter. It is difficult to find sitters for her and so my husband and I rarely go out together alone. That is bad for our marriage but we’ve just struggled to make it happen consistently.
Even leaving her alone with my husband makes me nervous because he’s not as vigilant as I am. He tends to get absorbed in things and then handle problems differently than I would prefer.
So I had set myself up for burnout. God never intended children to be raised by one person in isolation.
1. Find your Hope in God
Through all of this, I’ve struggled because I was trying to do it alone. I had created a co-dependence. My prayers were for God to heal her, to help me, to help us. But God was trying to teach me to Be Still and Know Him in the midst of these trials.
In everything that’s gone wrong in my life, God has been my hope. God gives me strength, peace, hope, and joy when the world seems to give me trouble. But I was not giving God my child fully. No, I was trying to raise her and help her all in my own strength.
Exodus 14:14 The Lord will fight for you while you [only need to] keep silent and remain calm (Be Still).”
As my strength has given out, God has come in to help and heal in beautiful ways. God is my strength and hope and He is fighting for us in this season. This year as God has been teaching me to stop fighting and being afraid I have learned to just rest in Him and Be Still.
- To Be Still When Life is Hard
- Be Still in the Midst of the Chaos of Life
- Rest in and Trust God when You don’t Understand
2. Raising Children Takes a Village
The next strategy I had to embrace is that I am not the only one who can care for my child. It’s okay if dad handles things differently. She will survive a couple of hours of TV and junk food while I go out.
There are people who know my child and love her enough to learn how to watch her. Time away from me is a good thing for us both. Date night is important for our marriage!
We have an amazing church family that I can trust to keep her while I go to service and worship with other adults. It’s okay if she cries a little while we are apart.
So utilize the village God put in your circle to find ways to have away from your special needs child without feeling guilty! That is one way I began treating myself as I would treat others, with self-compassion for special needs moms
Related: Hope in Hard Times
3. Invest in your marriage to heal
Not only does it take a village to raise a child, but God also gave you a partner in this parenting journey. It’s easy for the mom to take on the burden of learning the parenting strategies, research the doctors, treatments, and meds and manage all the needs of the child with special needs.
But resist the temptation. When you try to manage all of the special needs issues yourself it leaves your spouse out of a huge part of your life!
My husband and I do not agree about everything when it comes to parenting. We argue and disagree heatedly at times in fact. But we talk it through so we both know what’s going on.
When I was trying to handle it all myself I became bitter, resentful, and isolated from my husband. The distance that was being created there was damaging our marriage.
Parenting our children is a very big part of my daily life and I was leaving him out of it to avoid the conflict.
It took several difficult conversations to get the air cleared and get on the same page but now we can discuss all the issues in our daily life. That is a huge help in sharing the burden that was creating this autism mom burnout in my life. It invested in our marriage and is helping me heal. That is one way to fight the busy life and set Biblical Priorities.
4. Have fun together as a family
Autism and family stress are very real. Special needs parenting and family stress are very real. The daily stress and business can be enough to drain the fun out of any family, but when you add the things that accompany a special needs family you can really lose your family. There is an especially big strain on special needs siblings.
- The financial stress
- Added therapy appointments
- Endless doctor appointments
- Specialist appointments
- Unexpected meltdowns/tantrums/fits
- The emotional strain that comes with all of that
To counter the family stress of special needs life we decided to be intentional to add fun back into our life. What do you enjoy doing for fun as a family? We love:
- Playing at the park
- Watching movies or old TV shows
- Eating out at a restaurant
- Playing board games and card games
So we schedule something fun every week to do as a family together to relieve Autism Mom Burnout. We agree to not talk about anything serious or stressful. The only conversations are fun topics and silly jokes. It’s nice to unwind together.
5. Be open about the struggles with other special needs families
A good friend sat down with me in the first month and told me to seek out other moms with children with Autism and just test the waters with them.
So I did. I found a few moms and started a casual conversation about what we were facing. A couple responded badly. Honestly, some people just don’t understand the struggles of parenting special needs children. but the others just listened, asked how they could help, and loved on me. It was so helpful.
Being an Autism mom can feel lonely. Your child is not like others their age and it feels so isolating. The fear of judgment is so real, but there are other moms who would love to listen and chat through things.
If you’ve had a bad experience, don’t give up. Keep trying to find a friend or two that you can call anytime and talk to about the issues you are facing. They are out there and will be praising God for you when you finally do connect.
You really don’t know what you don’t know. Parenting is that way in general. If you have a great kid you can’t understand someone who has a prodigal. It’s the same with special needs children. If you have a neuro-typical child you may not understand the challenges facing a special needs child.
How Will You Handle Autism Mom Burnout Help You?
Have you found yourself unexpectedly caught in the cycle of Autism Mom Burnout or Autism Mom PTSD? These are just five strategies that can help you find hope, healing, and prevention in the future.
- Find Hope in God
- Don’t try to do it all alone
- Invest in your marriage
- Have fun as a family
- Find other special needs moms to talk to
Can I pray over you as we end our time?
Dear Lord, please hold onto this sweet lady who is struggling with Autism Mom Burnout. Give her Your peace, rest, hope, and joy. Surround her with a loving supportive community that can help her where she needs help. Bless her with wisdom and guidance as she walks this journey. Above all remind her You are always with her.
- Fear of Homeschooling A Special Needs Child
- How to Praise God in Anxiety and Find Peace of Mind
- 3 Helps for Siblings of Speical Needs Children