Caregivers can help autistic children by helping themselves

Parents of children with autism spectrum disorders don’t realize that taking care of themselves is just as important as taking care of their children, a UT Southwestern Medical Center child psychiatrist says.

“Along this journey, you need to take care of yourself,” says Dr. Catherine Karni, an autism expert at UT Southwestern. “Caring for yourself is caring for your child.”

This involves dealing with others, prioritizing and revisiting family goals and roles.

Dr. Karni suggests that adult caregivers learn about positive self-talk and practice it daily. She also suggests that they learn organizational styles and ask for help.

“Parents should not lose sight of their dreams and should re-energize,” Dr. Karni says.

Don’t let fear of the diagnosis keep you inside your home, Dr. Karni says. Find a support group of like-minded individuals and have someone – a spouse, partner, friend or neighbor – go with you. Also, set aside “alone time” with your spouse and make time for any other children in the family.

“Raising a child with a disability can be challenging but it can also be rewarding,” Dr. Karni says.

When speaking to others about your child, set conversational boundaries.

“Everyone will have opinions,” Dr. Karni says. “Keep in mind that you decide what information to share with your family and casual acquaintances.”

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/mentalhealth for more information about clinical services in psychiatry at UT Southwestern, including for child and adolescent conditions.
April is Autism Awareness Month.

Media Contact: LaKisha Ladson

Return to April 2011 News Tips

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