Health & Wellness

Care for the Caregiver

Caring for someone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a developmental disability that impacts a person’s ability to socially interact with others, can be a full-time and emotionally demanding job. So how can caregivers provide support while also caring for themselves?

Self-Care

According to Jason Emejuru, MD, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at The Center for Autism at Sheppard Pratt, self-care involves “common SENSE” strategies.

“Each letter of ‘sense’ stands for specific self-care strategies for parents to use and model for their child,” explains Dr. Emejuru. “Sleep is something that caregivers may not get enough of. Exercise fosters both physical and mental wellness. Good Nutrition helps your body hold up to the full-time demands of being a caregiver. Social connections provide supportive relationships.

And finally, Engagement: Caregivers should invest in activities and relationships that are engaging and meaningful.”

The Power of Community

The autism community is an excellent resource for caregivers.

“Connecting with other parents who also have a child with autism and understand what you’re experiencing can be extremely helpful,” says Sara Uram, LCSW-C, a Social Worker in the Neuropsychiatry Program at Sheppard Pratt. “Parents can also engage in sensory-friendly events as well as parent and sibling support groups.”

Advocating for your child can also be empowering.

“Parents of young children quickly recognize that the world was not built with their child in mind,” says Dr. Emejuru. “When parents can change their child’s school or community to make it more inclusive, parents feel a new sense of purpose.”

Caregivers should remember that they are not alone. At Sheppard Pratt, a team of professionals who specialize in ASD will partner with you to help you support your loved one. 

“We know there are hard days, and we’ll walk with you,” says Tom Flis, MS, BCBA, LBA, LCPC, Clinical Director of The Center for Autism at Sheppard Pratt. “At The Center for Autism, we offer autism diagnosis services, and then will work with caregivers to create a comprehensive care plan that includes all of the supports and services to help someone with autism learn, grow, and thrive throughout their lifetime.” 

Embrace the Spectrum

“We need to remember that like any child, children with ASD have positive attributes that should be appropriately supported, such as their intense focus on subjects that interest them,” says Uram. “I try to experience with them the joy of engaging in what they love.”

Self-Care Common “SENSE”

  • Sleep
  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Social Connections
  • Engagement

Meet the Experts

  • Jason Emejuru, MD

    Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist, Center for Autism
    Specialties:
    Autism Spectrum Disorder, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Pediatrics
  • Sara Uram, LCSW-C

    Social Worker
    Specialties:
    Autism Spectrum Disorder, Neurodevelopmental Disorders
  • Tom Flis, MS, BCBA, LBA, LCPC

    Clinical Director, The Center for Autism; Behavioral Services Manager
    Specialties:
    Applied Behavior Analysis, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Intellectual Disabilities, Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Psychotherapy

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