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Moving from Isolated to Connected in ASD Couples with Children

Updated: May 1, 2020

Sometimes, a couple with an autistic partner will describe how gratifying their relationship felt before they had children. Many readers can identify with the complexity of combining couplehood with parenthood. When a parent is on the spectrum, the "crowd" in the house, combined with the increasing number of intimate relationships, can feel overwhelming.

An autistic father may express that he finds it confusing to understand the varying needs of so many different members of the family. Some parents note that they feel able to care for babies, but once the children develop personalities and psychological needs, they feel lost.

One way to build connections in a growing family is to guard alone time. The ASD individual will need downtime to "regroup" and transition in complex environments. If he is working, the family may wish to create a rule that Dad needs alone time for 30 minutes right after work.

A second strategy can be to make responsibilities specific and matched to the autistic individual's strengths. For example, the ASD mother may love giving the children a bath and reading before bed. She may avoid helping the kids with homework. In this case, the father may take on the role of a homework helper.

Third, to reduce the demands of social multi-tasking within a group, the parents may organize a specific and repetitive schedule for one-on-one time. For example, the couple may have a standing babysitter for date nights every other Friday. Perhaps every Saturday afternoon, one of the children gets an "outing" with a parent. This type of activity schedule can make connecting easier. For example, Dad may know that he and his daughter hike through the park in the summer or go to a movie in the colder weather.

Reducing the chaos and adding predictability to family time can keep the focus on connected relationships.

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