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Being the parent of a child on the autism spectrum can be physically exhausting, emotionally draining, mentally taxing and financially a disaster for your family. Your autistic child needs you to be full of energy, switched on all the time, have eyes in the back of your head, miss nothing that they do well, clear up after every disaster and, at the same time, be uplifting, encouraging and joyful, all on 2 hours sleep!!! I have absolutely no doubt that every person reading this, wants the best for their child. You would love to only need 2 hours sleep a night; you would love to be able to understand everything your child is trying to tell you, even when punching and kicking you is the only way they can communicate; you would love to be able to not have a battle at every meal time; you would love, just for once, bed-time to be a beautiful, loving experience with your child. In order to be all that your child needs you to be – YOU HAVE TO LOOK AFTER YOU! When you have an autistic child, the last thing on your mind is YOU, but the reality is that if you do not look after yourself, you cannot be the best parent for your child. So, what steps can you take to ensure that your mental, physical and emotional health is being care for? BE NICE TO YOURSELF Being a parent of an autistic child can be tough, so don’t beat yourself up. Believe that you are doing everything within your power to help your child and be proud of yourself. Think of all the things you do well, not the things you wish you could do better. At the end of the day, write down 6 things that you did brilliantly. Really celebrate everything great about you.

GET SOME EXERCISE This may be a tough one, due to lack of time, but exercise doesn’t have to be going to the gym, running round the streets or playing tennis or squash at a club. It could be as simple as taking the dog for walk, tampolining with your child, going swimming or dancing around the lounge to your favourite music. ASK FOR AND ACCEPT HELP If you need help – ask for it. We are very bad at asking for help, because generally we think we should be able to do it all. Asking for help, however, allows other people into our lives in a positive way. So be brave and ask! Sometimes help comes in an unexpected way and we have to be open to accepting it. I remember when I was trying to put together a group of students to be part of a team, when I was running a home programme for Emily. My neighbour came round and said, she wouldn’t be able to be part of the team, but she could clean my house for me!!!! Fantastic! It doesn’t really matter how the help manifests – all that matters is that you are willing to accept it. RELAX Try to find a few moments in the day, every day, to relax. It might be a hot bubble bath, reading a book, listening to music or chatting with friends. KEEPING FRIENDS OR LETTING THEM GO You need positive, happy, relaxed people around you, so if you are lucky enough to have these kind of friends, nurture the relationship. Chat on the phone, meet for coffee (if you can), chat on line, but keep these friendships going. If you have ‘friends’ who are negative or draining - let them go. PUT YOURSELF FIRST The problem is that if we don’t take care of ourselves, sooner or later we won’t be of much use to anyone else - or to ourselves. Just as the airline attendant tells you to put on your own oxygen mask in an emergency before helping a child with theirs, you must take care of your own basic needs before you can attend to the needs of others. Putting yourself first may be completely alien to you and sound selfish and unrealistic. If this is the case, try something a little more gentle. Put yourself on, at least, an equal footing as those you love and care for. Take care of you.