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How to Cope?

Great information below to help those with ASD and their loved ones

Once you or your loved one has been diagnosed with Autism it can be a real challenging time physically, spiritually, emotionally and financially for the caregiver(s).  Coping in a positive way along this journey of Autism is very important.  Review this list today, and periodically, to help assure that you are taking care of yourself, and your loved one.  Living with and caring for a loved one with Autism is sometimes overwhelming and daunting.  Here are FAIR’s top suggestions for coping.  Trust that to reach your highest potential as a coping parent or caregiver, you must also take care of yourself.

o   BE PROACTIVE – Get educated about Autism, treatments, and supports networks
The number one thing caregivers need to do is educate themselves. This usually starts with researching on the internet and/or going to the library to check out the abundance of information that is available.
o   ORGANIZE your research, findings, leads, and child’s information.
Add your favorite websites to your favorites in your computer or on your mobile phone.  Check back at those sites for updates.
Make a folder in your email inbox exclusively for topics related to your son or daughter; and another, exclusively for opportunities and leads for you to take care of yourself. Create a box or BIG 3 ring binder, where you store your son or daughter’s doctor evaluations, Special Ed IEP’s, report cards, evaluations, and any of your own research or contacts.
If you have a Facebook account, be sure to “like” websites of interest, and check your newsfeed.  This will help you stay up to date with opportunities out there, as many organizations post valuable information and opportunities on Facebook.
o   GET SUPPORT from friends, family, non-profit organizations, professionals in counseling, education or directly immersed in helping special needs children, social networks, meet up groups or a spiritual community
Along with educating yourself, SUPPORT is a must!  Support can be found in many ways, a friend, a spiritual community, and social networking.  Community resources and support continue to grow.  Below is a list of just some of the support opportunities offered.  Some are limited to the Austin area, but research if there are similar organizations in your area.  FAIR also strongly encourages you to follow leads that you get via word of mouth as well, from the people in your community.
Call 211 (United Way): A good start is to call 211 “First Call for Help”.  When calling 211 you are connected to a trained professional that can give you advice on agencies in your area that offer financial help, counseling, and other therapies, including finding trained “advocates” that can help you and your loved one in many ways.
 Contact ATCIC (Austin Travis County Integral Care) also known as MHMR
http://www.integralcare.org/ Hotline 512-472-HELP (Spanish services available)
ATCIC/MHMR offers “family advocates” that can assist you and your loved one in many ways according to your personal needs.  At ATCIC, your child will need to go through an intake/ evaluation process.  Based on his or her needs, he/ she will be offered a variety of valuable services.  If your child is under 6 years of age, be sure to ask ATCIC about being enrolled in the ABA program offered by UT, as your child may be eligible for 4-12 months of free ABA training.  Eligibility can only be determined after the ATCIC intake process has been completed.
Connect with Growing Roots, Austin http://growingrootsaustin.com/
Empowering Families Through Education (Extensive Spanish services available)
“Growing Roots empowers families by providing classes and support groups that inform, connect and support parents of children with special needs.”
Independent Me http://www.livingwithmeaning.org/
“An Independent Me” Opens Doors and Opportunities for Austin Adults with Autism.
An Independent Me (AIM), a living experience for people ages 16 and older with developmental disabilities, provides a safe and supportive environment. Using scientifically validated techniques and curriculum, the campus teaches life skills, supports educational opportunities, provides on-the-job-training and coaching, creates meaningful jobs, and prepares for a step up to the next level of independence.”
Arc of Texas http://www.thearcoftexas.org
“The Arc of Texas creates opportunities for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities
to actively participate in their communities and make the choices that affect their lives in a positive manner.”
Your local schools
Your local public schools provide a wide array of valuable resources and early intervention opportunities, including, but not limited to, PPCD (Pre-School Program for Children with Disabilities) which is available for 3-6 year olds, Speech Therapy programs, school district evaluations to children ages 3 and up, Special Education programs, up to date summer camp lists for special needs children, and so much more.  There are also excellent private schools, specializing in Autism.
Samaritan Center for Counseling and Pastoral Care http://www.samaritan-center.org/
“The Samaritan Center’s mission is to provide professional counseling, integrative medicine and community education to prevent and treat abuse, teach healthy life skills and strengthen families
The Samaritan Center’s primary goal is to provide mental health care and integrative medicine that is accessible and affordable, particularly to low income families and individuals who have little to no health insurance.”
Join the Meet Up Group: Austin Autism Treatment Forum
Stay up to date by receiving emails from the Austin Autism Treatment Forum www.meetup.com/Austin-Autism-Treatment-Forum
Visit Autism Speaks www.autismspeaks.org
o   Reach out to your local Autism Non Profits for education, financial assistance and emotional support and education.
Many of the above mentioned programs offer education, financial assistance, emotional support and education.  Some also have lists on hand of grant and financial aid opportunities.  Be sure to ask your community connections for such lists.  Maggie’s Hope of Austin, is an example of one of the many financial support opportunities available for children with Autism:  http://www.maggieshope.org/
o   S EEK HELP and ASSISTANCE
It takes a village to raise a child.   Don’t isolate and try to do everything yourself. Ask for help.  Create routine times in which you will receive help.
Get a helper or assistant, if possible.
If you can afford an assistant to help with research, transportation, your household, and other related matters, it is an investment that could benefit both you and your child.
Seek therapies and respite/ babysitting care.
It is extremely important for the caregiver to have time for him or herself to reenergize.  Some of the programs listed above provide connections to free therapies and respite care for low income families.  Be sure to ask.  There is some insurance and Medicaid coverage for therapies.  If you can afford to have a babysitter, be sure to schedule a routine time.
Attend counseling / family counseling.
Do not underestimate the challenge of your journey.  It can be most stressful.  Professional emotional support makes a very positive difference for all.
Seek out behavior therapy and homework help for your child.
There are organizations that offer behavior training, ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis), Discrete Trial Therapy, or Homework Help, specifically for Special Needs and individuals in the Autism Spectrum.  Many of these professionals not only support wonderful training for your child, but they also tend to have a wealth of community connections, provide advocacy and support to you.
o   Explore Health, Nutrition and Medical Solutions
Research and apply health, nutrition and medical information that you find along your journey.  FAIR families have found positive results exploring and applying findings among, but not limited to, the following:
Routine Healthy Eating, Exercise and Rest
Learning from Biomedical Physician
Trusting Nutritionists
Trying Safe Dietary Measures
Using Medical Tests to help plan future steps to wellness
Taking supplements
o   Stay HEALTHY: Prioritize Routines to Keep Healthy
As a caregiver, you must take care of yourself!  Below is a list of options. Taking care of yourself and making self care a priority will give you the strength to enjoy some of the amazing things you and your loved one can do.  When you (the caregiver) are happy and healthy, your loved one will be too!
Fun Time
At least once a week, find the time to do something fun without having to worry about caregiving. It does not have to be expensive. Walk with a friend, join a class at the “Y”, or join a study group. Look on Meet Up on line for an infinite number of groups out there that are looking for members to join them in the hobbies that they enjoy. Have a routine date night with yourself or your significant other.  Meanwhile, find a friend, relative, babysitter, or someone from your spiritual community that would watch your loved one while you have some much needed and deserved “time out”.
Stay Physically Active Exercise, move!  Get a personal training or commit to a routine exercise class.
Eat Right
Read up on nutrition or seek professionals such as nutritionists and trainers for help with your physical health.
Sleep
Make sure you get adequate sleep.
Take Care of Your Mental Health and Emotional Well Being
Visit licensed counselors or psychologists for mental health, and/or spiritual directors. If you need suggestions, ask friends, teachers, your connections on social media. See what they have done, or who they suggest.  Even Angie’s list has recommendations.
Beyond The Physical
Pick what works for you, but do pick a way to connect with your mind, think positively, and believe in positive life transforming possibilities.  It’s a crucial ingredient to healing yourself and others.
Prayer, Optimism, Positive Affirmations, Visualizing Positive Outcomes, Asking for Prayers and Positive Thoughts, Meditation, Guided Meditation, Yoga, Hypnotherapy have proven positive effects, repeatedly and consistently.  Which of these do you wish add to incorporate to your weekly schedule?
Help others.  Focusing on others and reaching out to others will bring you rewards and help you to feel good.Read and listen to inspirational poems, books, movies and music.Mentor programs and individuals in your life help so much.  Have someone to call when you are down.  Sometimes just one conversation can change your whole day and outlook in a very positive way.Join Support Groups / Grieving support groups.  You are not alone.  You will do better connecting with others, especially during times of grief, despair or depression.Attend Educational seminars, workshops, conferences.  In addition to learning, you will often make new beloved connections.
Allow yourself to express your emotions safely (anger, sadness, etc.) cry and release for a certain time period, then move forward
Stay Connected to Your Passion
Keep one thing in your life you are passionate about.  It is a sacred life force that motivates and inspires you.  Hold on to that part of you, that hobby you are passionate about.
Love
Take time to appreciate each precious moment, and focus on what you love in your life.  Give love and be open to receiving love.  Celebrate love and fruitful connections.
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