A Table for Two – The Importance of Valentine’s Day Every Day

By Kurt Nantz, Developmental Connections Intern and Autism Parent

A November 2013 Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders article reports that, “Parents raising children with ASD (Autism Spectral Disorder), particularly mothers, have reported high degrees of stress.” Autism moms (and dads) reply with, “Tell us something we don’t know!”   Parenting is a tough gig for everyone, and if you add to it sensory sensitivities, self-injurious behaviors, communication difficulties, obsessive behaviors, difficulty interacting, fear of a child wandering, and a host of other issues, the Journal’s findings come as no surprise. The stress of dealing with ASD or other developmental disabilities can not only be intense, it can seem relentless.

Not surprisingly this stress often has a detrimental effect on marriages and other significant relationships. Brian and Gina Walden are autism parents and advocates. Their new book, “A Brand-New Marriage,” comes out on Valentine’s day. In it, Brian says, “Staying in love takes a conscious decision to pursue your spouse and keep the flame alive. If you don’t pursue what’s important to you, it will slowly fade away.”

The Journal article suggests that respite care and date nights were key in this endeavor. They found that couples who consistently used respite care and had date nights reported a much higher level of marital satisfaction and they also were better able to deal with autism related stressors.

The problem many parents have is finding a respite care provider that:

  1. They can trust, and
  2. Understands ASD behaviors

While these are understandable concerns, there are steps you can take to find someone reliable. LinkAbility Director of Case Management, Cathy Brown, suggests getting referrals from other families with children with developmental disabilities, or getting recommendations from your (or your friend’s) place of worship. Special education teachers might also be able to recommend a paraprofessional or a student from the A+ program looking to earn some extra money. You may even be able to get a recommendation from the psychology or nursing department at your local college or community college. The bottom line is a respite provider and date nights are “must haves” for couples caring for someone with a developmental disability.

Brian and Gina’s book will soon be available on Amazon. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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