The Hidden Epidemic Affecting Autism Parents

autism-depressionI had a message from a fellow autism parent this week. Two words of that message have impacted me greatly. She wrote:

“I’m struggling.”

It is so common for me to hear this. It is the centre piece of every support group, the most common theme on online autism forums, the single most heard phrase when I meet up with people.

For some of those parents, it is so bad that I encourage them to see a doctor for support.

In my years as an autism parent, I have found there is a secret epidemic affecting so many autism parents and it needs to be talked about: We need to talk about depression.

People see a mum crying and think she is having a bad day. What they don’t know about are all the other nights she cried in private and nobody knew.

My eyes are more tuned to see people struggling since I have walked that path. I know what it is like to look at my child and worry for his future. I know what it is like to feel there is no hope. I recognise that feeling of failure when you realise your child is just not developing as they should. I know the pain of taking your child to hospital when they should be outside playing with friends.

It is isolating when your child has autism or special needs, and it is OK to admit that.

Sadly, society expects us to be positive, upbeat and encouraging, and I often see parents who are so emotionally overwhelmed, so sleep deprived, so beaten down by the system, that they have little hope.

When you have a child who struggles in school every day, a child who won’t eat or has no friends, a child who is being bullied for being different, or who cannot play in a park because the equipment is unsuitable for their needs, how would you feel? If your child was denied the support they need, or could not communicate, or was living in pain every day, would you not be heartbroken?

Is it any wonder there is an epidemic of depression among parents of children with autism?

While so many are on medication, and this can be vital, we as a society also need to recognise that autism parenting is exhausting and draining. What about better support and understanding for our children, better care for those in society who are full-time carers, and better training for staff so they can better meet the needs of the most vulnerable?

What about a society that is less prone to judge and quicker to encourage?

The current epidemic of depression among autism parents is very concerning. I am even more worried that continual budget cuts and ignorance in society are breeding not only depression among the parents, but sadly also among the siblings, and even the special needs children themselves. They all struggle with the same issues.

We need to recognise this epidemic and do something about it now.

Don’t ever be afraid to tell someone you are struggling. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. Together, we can support each other and help make a better future for the parents and our children.

A version of this first appeared on FireFly Friends.

Miriam Gwynne

Founder at Faith Mummy
Miriam lives in Scotland with her husband and twins. Trained as a teacher, she started blogging in 2013 when her son was diagnosed with the genetic condition nf1. Both twins have autism and Miriam describes her life as "sometimes challenging, mostly hectic, but always full of love."

Related Posts

She Has Non-Verbal Autism, But Her New Friend Unde... If you have a non-verbal child, chances are you know how hard it is for them to make friends. That's why we know you'll love this video. The mother...
When Living With Your Autistic Child Becomes ̵... I went with my daughter to see a mental health advisor. Her anxiety is out of control, her sleeping is poor and her eating almost non-existent. It is ...
The Autism-Friendly Products We REALLY Want When your child has autism and disabilities, you start to notice as they get older that some products you’d like to buy just aren’t easy to get hold o...
Planes, Trains & Automobiles: Tips & Tri... Tonight, as I sit here writing a plethora of lists for our family holiday travel, I posted a poll to a parenting support group on Facebook asking for ...
His First Time at the Theatre My son Ethan has fallen in love with the Gruffalo series. It is safe to say that, at times, our house has been taken over by the Gruffalo and the big ...
Things To Do in the Summer With Children With Auti... Summer can be long and stressful for any family, but for those who have autistic children the changes in routine, lack of structure, isolation from fr...
A Meaningful Life, Animated For many of us, Disney animated films are just entertainment. But for the Suskind family, these films are much, much more. After all, it was through t...
Summer Is Hard. It’s that time of the year again... Summer! I have a love/hate relationship with summer. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the warm weather. In fact, I ...
What Mother’s Day means to me… -- A guest post by Annie Ayoub, an Autism mom This picture was taken almost 2 years ago, and I treasure it, because it was really the last time tha...
The Look I’m not sure about you, but I’ve dealt with the stare numerous times since autism entered my world. You know the look you get from someone when th...
On The First Anniversary Of Our Autism Diagnosis To the parents anxiously awaiting that first doctors appointment. Hoping, wishing, and praying that all those "idiosyncrsies" you see in your pr...
A Little Patience and a Small Dose of Love She doesn't pick up on social queues like girls her age should, and she doesn't understand the concept of personal space- especially with people t...