We are conditioned to understand that when on an airplane, in case of an emergency we are to put on our oxygen masks first, then help others. In the moment, it makes sense as a clear case for the importance of self-care in an emergency, so that you may be available and well to help others. However, families and caregivers of loved ones on the autism spectrum often don’t take the time to use this same philosophy and instruction when addressing their own self care needs. Time, finances, and even guilt can all play a part in a reluctance to ask for support and help, or to seek it from known agencies when offered. The demands, strain, and energy it takes to support your child, sibling, or family member with autism are unique. You need a support system that you can trust, someone who can understand the intricacies of what it means to be on the autism spectrum, and who is capable of addressing the emotional and behavioral needs that are specific to our friends with autism spectrum disorder.
Respite care is a service provided by many agencies, churches, and other community organizations. Respite care can provide families and caregivers with an hour, a day, an overnight, an afternoon, summer camps, and various other options for people with autism to get the support and care they need. While it serves as a much-needed support for families, it can also expose an individual with autism spectrum disorder to new opportunities to become more involved with activities and social outlets that may otherwise be limited or difficult to access. Respite services can include care in your home, recreational activities supervised by trained individuals, or programs at a local community center. Funding sources can be private, through insurance/Medicaid, or through the DDA. There are options in each county throughout the state of Maryland, and Autism Speaks lists providers and locations that can assist in providing respite care to the autism spectrum disorder community.
In the fast-paced lives that we live, it can be difficult to take a day, or even just an hour, to recharge. But, we are better spouses, parents, employees, and humans when we reach out and ask for the help that is there. Please take a minute to explore your options, or refer a friend so that they may get the support they need to continue being the heroes that they are each and every day.
Carrie Etheridge, LCSW-C, is a social worker on the Psychotic Disorders Unit at Sheppard Pratt’s Towson campus.