Kids with autism need a lot of support and we give it to them. Behavioral therapy, speech therapy, OT, IEPs, special diets, sensory rooms, consistent routines ... we do so much for our children.
This autism parenting gig isn't easy, which means we also need more support than other parents.
We don't provide it for ourselves.
To be a happy, healthy and effective autism parent, you MUST put the right supports into place. A helpful spouse, helpful family and respite care are the most common support systems, but many parents don't have those things. Maybe you're a single mom like me with no family nearby. Or maybe you live in a state that doesn't offer respite care.
Here are three other things I do for myself that make my caregiving more efficient and effective so I can focus on my business, our health, Tosh's education and our happiness.
1. Molly Maid
I often say I'd give up my phone before I gave up my regularly house cleaning service, and I'm only half kidding about that. It took me a long time to hire a house cleaning service because there's so much embarrassment and guilt involved. But once I got over it, I never looked back and I have zero shame about it. Clutter and filth drive me crazy, but my time is so limited I can't afford to burn an entire day or half a day every week cleaning house. I have no problem keeping my kitchen clean, doing laundry or picking up clutter, but bathrooms, floors, dusting and the rest doesn't stand a chance against my busy autism mom and work schedule.
Plus, I don't want the chemicals in the house where Tosh can get into them. He doesn't need to inhale the fumes while I'm cleaning, either. I see this as a necessary support service for Tosh and for me. I highly recommend Molly Maid - my team is excellent and the price is very reasonable. They're located in several metro areas around the country. Let me know if you try them out!
Grocery shopping is almost as much of a time burn as house cleaning. Plus, I get overwhelmed in supermarkets - all the different smells, temperature changes from aisle to aisle, too many choices and that gawd awful fan that blows a gale force wind on you when you enter - it's just too much. Even with a list, I get so rattled I end up leaving without things that I need and instead coming home with things I'll never eat.
Instacart is my savior. Even though I live in the greater Los Angeles area, we don't have a Whole Foods nearby so I can't use Amazon grocery delivery. But I can use the Instacart app to add things to my cart throughout the week so I never forget anything. There's also a chat feature so you can nag your shopper to make sure the berries on sale aren't moldy or to select the ripe bananas instead of the green ones. It's $99 for a year of unlimited free deliveries. Less than $10 to never have to go grocery shopping again? Hell. Yes. Plus, the app informs me that I've saved more than 90 hours of time using Instacart since I first signed up last summer. That's time I've used working, cooking autism-friendly meals for Tosh, exercising and homeschooling.
They even give out a code that gives new customers $10 off their first order (plus I get $10 off!), so please use this obnoxiously long link if you'd like to try it out: https://www.instacart.com/?code=HANDERSON1F21F8&utm_campaign=off1&utm_content=referrals_page_3&utm_medium=ios&utm_source=instacart_referral&utm_term=sms
3. My son's iPad data plan.
Last year I added mobile data service to Tosh's iPad. Why did I wait so long? I have no idea. It's ridiculously cheap, like $15 a month, and it allows him to stream his favorite movies or watch YouTube wherever we are. As I've said before, for kids with autism, access to screen time and their favorite movies or games is very important. Our kids use these tools to help them regulate themselves in public or in unfamiliar surroundings. For some people with autism, access to that screen is the ONLY way they're able to go out into public. The ability to go out into the world is a human right, so don't let anyone make you feel bad about providing that support for your child.
I've also used his data plan to restore his Proloquo2Go from backup a few times when he's found a new and inventive way to get into the app and delete part of all of his words. Access to communication at all times is a must, and again, a human right. We can also homeschool from anywhere, since he uses both math and language arts apps for academics.
Let me say this one more time: as an autism parent, you need extra support systems in place. What might seem extravagant or selfish to someone else is a different story for you. Don't let the opinions of others who have no idea what you're going through keep you from making your caregiving responsibilities more efficient and effective so you can be healthy, happy and sane.
Heather Anderson is a blissfully happy autism mom and lover of life in Southern California who is on a mission to help autism parents rediscover their happy place.
Please join me on this beautiful autism journey. The Autism Oasis is a fun, supportive and educational community where your personal development is just as important as your children's. You are more than just a caregiver!