res·pite [res-pit]

Noun:  A delay or cessation for a time, especially of anything distressing or trying; an interval of relief

Verb: To relieve temporarily, especially from anything distressing or trying; give an interval of relief from

No matter how you say it – stay, hiatus, rest, recess, postpone, suspend – respite is something that all parents need from time to time. It’s especially true of parents who are raising one or more children on the autism spectrum.

If this describes you or someone you know, then you’re probably already aware that caring for a child on the spectrum can be rewarding one day and devastating the next. In fact, those emotions and more can be experienced within the same hour some days.

It’s common that a lot of responsibility and taking care of children (on the spectrum or not) falls to the mom. This doesn’t mean the dads aren’t involved, but as moms we often take on more because that’s who we are and what we instinctively do. We love our children and want what’s best. And sometimes what’s best is for us to take a break away from our special needs child to recharge and refresh.

Thinking about doing this can make many women uncomfortable. That’s OK. But there are some compelling reasons as to why this is not only good for you, but also good for your child on the spectrum, and other neurotypical children you may have and marriage.

What is Respite Care?stress therapy and management helps in relaxation reduce tension

At its simplest, respite care is a break from the action. It’s a stepping back so you can catch your breath, recharge your batteries and spend a little bit of time caring for yourself. It can be time to hang with your other kids if you have them, visit with friends, be with your significant other conversing beyond, “How was your day?”

It sounds great, but many parents, especially moms, fight respite care. It may be hard to walk away from your enormous responsibility of caring for your child, but doing so can make a world of difference in how you interact with him or her when you return. There’s no shame or guilt in taking a break – everyone needs one now and then.

Try thinking of it this way. If you’ve flown on a plane, then you know that flight attendants always instruct that parents should put on their oxygen masks first before they put a mask on a child. This at first sounds counter-intuitive and uncaring. No parent wants to see her child struggle for breath in a scary situation. But it makes perfect sense – take care of you first so you’re able to take care of your child. Respite care is the same thing.

But it’s not all about you.

Your child may also benefit from a break. While routine and familiarity is what children on the spectrum favor, it’s a good thing for them to expand their relationships beyond their direct family to other caregivers. Not only might it encourage a bit more independence, but also provide successful solutions to matters where the child might have become “stuck,” such as going to the bathroom instead of using a diaper. Sometimes someone different can coax out behaviors that the child won’t do for the parents.

Length of Time Varies

Respite can mean 15 minutes. It can mean a weekly date night. Or it can mean a few quiet days away. Only you will be able to determine what makes the most sense for your family situation and budget. If you can regularly schedule respite breaks they will become part of your family routine, which will help smooth the transition each time you go away.

Finding a Caregiver

Finding a caregiver that you like and trust to do the best job may not be as difficult as you think. A search for “respite care for autism St. Louis” on the Autism Speaks website netted several potential services and individual caregivers. While not an autism organization, TLC for Kids is a local nanny agency that has multiple caregivers with autism experience.

The key to finding someone who is right for your family will be asking many questions to gain a comfort level with the potential service/caregiver and being clear about the needs of your child. Any fears, hesitations and concerns should be expressed during your conversation(s) to provide the greatest level of comfort for you.

Stabilizing Your Foundation

So, we at LoveU2Pieces, asks you to remember:

It’s About Time…

Time To Breathe…

Time To Build…

Time To Blossom…

Raising a child on the autism spectrum brings with it a unique set of challenges… Not just for the child, but for the parents, siblings, grandparents and friends.

Take the time and garner the support you need to raise healthy, successful children in a strong, supportive environment. Rejuvenate, re-energize, take care of yourself, so that you can be the best for your family.