By Regina M. Collins, MS, MFTI
For couples, parenting in general is a complex endeavor, requiring flexibility, sacrifice, continual personal growth, and inevitable adjustments within the marriage relationship. It is estimated that parents who have a child or children diagnosed with a disorder on the autism spectrum (ASD) have a higher likelihood of divorcing compared to parents of children without ASD. Research shows that among these couples who end up getting a divorce, it occurs after the child’s first five years of life, which points to the importance of setting a secure foundation early on to prepare the family atmosphere and strengthen the marriage relationship.
It makes sense that in the early years, a couple is adjusting to transitions in their family necessary to accommodate their child’s special needs. They may be learning about what sorts of interventions would benefit their child, and soon after, learning how to navigate the education system as it relates to their child’s learning style. But let’s back up one moment, to consider the emotional and social world of the parents who have been told that their child may not be developing in a typical way. What emotional toll does this diagnosis take on the child’s sense of self, on an individual parent, on a couples’ relationship, or within a family system?
For the past decade I have been working closely with families in a variety of capacities who have been touched by ASD; and I have learned that there is no one cookie cutter way that individual’s cope with this diagnosis. What I do know, is that resilience can be one of the most enduring qualities of any individual child, adolescent, parent or family unit facing trials of any kind. Harnessing support from others can build and strengthen one’s resiliency and improve the quality of day to day life.
If you are a parent raising a child or adolescent with ASD, single or married, consider joining Pathways to Wellness’ Parent Support Group every other Wednesday nights at 6pm this spring. Parents with children of all ages come to share stories, seek advice, gather tools for coping, lend an ear, meet new friends, and to offer and gain the support needed to navigate the waters of raising a child with ASD. I also offer individual adult therapy, couples and family therapy, and a developmental/relational therapy for children. I look forward to supporting you in any way needed on your individual pathway to wellness.
Regina M. Collins is a Marriage & Family Therapy Registered Intern (MFTI) with a M.S. in Counseling and a B.S. in Child & Adolescent Development from California State University, Fullerton. Her graduate project was a qualitative study exploring therapists' use of the DIR/Floortime Model in the treatment of children with autism spectrum disorder (a developmental & relational play therapy approach).
Contact Regina to make an appointment. Contact: 714-432-9857 ext. 8 or via email: Regina.Collins@pathways2wellness.com