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Helping Families Cope

Tammi Reynolds, BA & Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Helping Families Cope

stressed out 3D figureRaising a child who has been diagnosed with autism or a related pervasive developmental disorder is a daunting and exhausting task. There are many appointments to keep. Some families coordinate between twenty and forty hours of therapy each week, much of that delivered at home. They are visited by therapists, behavior specialists, case managers and support staff. They deal with their children's isolation, anxiety and tantrums, as well as their own often troubling emotional reactions. In short, families need support to help them cope.

Respite

Getting respite from your problems means getting a temporary break from those problems. Respite services help families caring for children with autism to have a break from caregiving, usually for just long enough so that caregivers can catch their breath.

Respite services can occur in the child's home, or in a respite home. Sometimes, respite can involve a child with autism's overnight stay away from home. Usually children are taken to a camp and engaged in therapeutic activities while their parents and siblings stay at home. Sometimes respite workers visit the family's home and provide an opportunity for parents to go out without their child for a few hours. Though respite services must usually be arranged in advance, some respite providers allow emergency service requests.

Respite care providers meet with families and create routines for the family and for children with autism to follow. They also determine behavioral interventions that are appropriate for each case. In most cases, respite providers offer rewards for positive behavior to children in their care. They may also use a behavioral technique called Redirection. Redirection simply involves quickly diverting children's attention to an appropriate activity when they misbehave.

Respite programs may also provide educational services while children with autism are under respite care. Educational services often include introducing new tasks by breaking them down into small steps, prompting children to complete self-help activities like grooming and encouraging independent functioning.