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Step #9: Keep the proper balance in your family

Quite possibly one of the most overlooked aspects of caring for a child with special needs is the care and attention of your other children. Caring for a child with special needs can be extremely demanding. The attention, patience, and time invested is an obvious reflection of love to the outsider, but what if that outsider is a sibling with good health and normal development? It's so easy to overlook or simply assume that the physical and emotional needs of the other children are being met. Smaller families (two children) tend to have a greater challenge because the healthy sibling may lead the life of an "only child", but without the benefits. The proper balance of time and attention between your children is extremely important. This balance is critical to the happiness of the entire family. Make every effort to spend time with your other children. Talk to them, often. Take the time to sit with them, look into their eyes, and listen to them, no matter what they're talking about. Remember, they need you too.

Here are a few ways to demonstrate your love to your other children (without special needs):

    Spend quality one-on-one time with them on a regular basis (playing, talking, recreation, etc)
     Involve them in every aspect of therapy and care of your child with special needs, and thank them.
    Talk to them about the challenges your family deals with and ask them for their ideas
     Talk to them about their feelings on a regular basis. (Share some of your feelings, too.)
    Take them on one-on-one "dates",  Movies, lunch, the park, anything that makes them feel special.

Relationships between parents fall into the same category. Maintaining a good relationship can be a challenge on its own, especially when combined with the stress that comes with living with autism. Of course, we realize that some of you are doing this on your own, as a single parent or without the support of a spouse. Either way, you'll need support. Develop this vital resource though friends, family, multiple support groups established by parents just like you, and a spiritual connection to God.  

Remember, you're on the same team and caring for a child with special needs must be a team effort. This being said, you need to work at keeping your relationships strong. Take the time to implement these support systems; they're just as effective on helping any of your other relationships as they are on your special-needs child!



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