The impact of autism on the family is quite profound. It can help the family bond together or tear it apart. Raising an autistic child is, in fact, a very challenging time for the whole family.
The impact of autism on the family of an autistic child is mainly dependent on the role of the mother though the role of the family as a whole is an important factor in evaluating the complete effect. The mother's role is especially crucial since it is she who bears the maximum brunt of this long-term illness.
As the main role in bringing up children usually falls to the mother, she may be subjected to additional emotional stress. The emotional ups-and-downs range from utter disbelief through anger and then immense relief at finding out what is causing the child's unusual behavior. This, however, is not the end of the emotional spectrum as far as parents of autistic children is concerned since they experience surprise, guilt (that they are somehow responsible), devastated and, finally, perhaps, understanding of what they are dealing with. Bringing up a child with autism is challenging enough as it is and without support it can be exhaustive.
The impact of autism on the family can end up with strained relationships among the members of the family or even between the parents and can also have a detrimental effect on the workplace performance. This may lead to feelings of resentment or may possibly have a financial impact if the parents are forced to change working hours and responsibilities to fit the requirements of caring for the autistic child.
Some counselors suggest that autie-parenting should be the ultimate aim. The term
'Autie-parenting' refers to the intersection of the spheres of autism advocacy and parenting of the autistic child. This point of balance between seeking to see autism as a 'differentness' rather than a disease and exposing the child to therapy for overcoming the more debilitating portions of autism.The impact of autism on the family in bringing up the child is itself challenging but autie-parenting requires understanding, patience and self awareness.
The impact of autism on the family affects siblings in that brothers and sisters of autistic children often face embarrassment among their friends and peers. Also, they may sometimes start envying of the amount of time their parents spend with their brother or sister. On the flip side, some children may develop strong protective feelings about their autistic siblings and get involved in their development.
The grandparents of the autistic child also experience shock and a feeling of loss on their grandchild being diagnosed with autism. In their case, part of the impact may be due to the feeling that they are bereft of a grandchild who is like 'normal' children and they may fret and worry on behalf of the parents. Since they may try to help out without really knowing how to go about it, they may, inspite of their obvious concern and intention to help, end up being a hindrance and strain an already fragile family. It will, therefore, be true to say that the impact of autism on the whole family including the grand parents is substantial.