Blog author: Miriam Fruchter, MA, CCC-SLP
My husband and I envy those couples that set aside a night each month for a “date night.” We always talk about it, discuss ideas, but never stick to it. Being a parent of three young children, it shouldn’t be a mere thought or discussion, it should be a strict parenting rule that needs to be strongly adhered to. How much more so for parents of children with special needs whose time is not their own, whose schedules are packed with multiple therapies, doctor’s appointments, and numerous phone calls on top of the busy daily lives we all carry. How much more so for parents of the child with autism, whose lives are many times focused on this child, impacting not just the lives of the parents but the lives of the siblings as well. As Hannah Gal, in an Autism Parenting Magazine put it:
“Caring for a child with autism can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Parents or caregivers with a child on the autism spectrum often adjust their entire household in order to accommodate his/her needs and sometimes, forget to focus on their own self-care or struggle to make time for themselves.” (Gal, 2022)
Self-care is essential, not an indulgence. Taking care of yourself is known to help boost your immune system, increase your level of energy, and strengthen your overall emotional health. This includes getting enough sleep every night, staying hydrated, getting regular exercise, and yes, even spending time away from your kids. Julia Johnson Attaway in an article by the Child Mind Institute explains that:
“Avoiding parent burnout requires real effort. Experts note it includes consistent self-care, establishing a strong support network for yourself and having a trustworthy therapeutic team for your child.” (Preventing Parent Burnout, 2021)
Unfortunately, there are too many articles out there stating what could happen when you shoulder all the responsibility for your child all the time.
Summer is a great time to focus a bit more on YOU and your family, without having to place the needs of your special needs child above everyone and everything else. There are a number of different ways that your child with special needs can remain busy, cared for, and safely occupied.
Whether it is a camp experience, respite services through your state or district, or having a volunteer high school girl or boy work with your child, you deserve a guilt-free break. It is healthy for your child to build relationships with different people and providers. You are not only giving your child a chance to be reliant on others and learn to communicate his/her needs to others, you are also giving others a chance to learn how to work with children with special needs. Many times, these relationships built over a summer break will last long into the rest the year.
So now start with one night off. Go schedule that date night, a night out with your other half or friends or just time spent on YOU. Go out and have fun!
“Self-care is your fuel... Whatever the road ahead or the path you’ve taken, self-care is what keeps your motor running and your wheels turning.”
— Melissa Steginus
ABCs of respite: A consumer guide for Family Caregivers. Consumer Information. (n.d.). https://archrespite.org/consumer-information
Gal, H. (2022, February 4). Should I Consider Respite Care for My Child with Autism? Autism Parenting Magazine.
Preventing parent burnout. Child Mind Institute. (2021, September 3). https://childmind.org/article/preventing-parent-burnout/
Special needs summer camps in New York. Summer Camps in New York For Individuals with Special Needs. (n.d.). https://www.veryspecialcamps.com/New-York/Special-Needs-Summer-Camps.shtml