How Parents of Kids With Special Needs Get A Break

Parents of kids with special needs definitely benefit from breaks: For every hour of respite care received, moms and dads 0f children with autism were less stressed and had better marriages, reveals a new study. Published  in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, the research came from 101 sets of parents polled around the country with kids ages 1 to 33. Parents reported that about 64 percent of kids spent time with a respite care provider, whether grandma, a sitter or someone from a community agency.

I’m honestly not sure they needed a study to show this—better to have taken that money and given those parents a night out! Like any parents, those who have kids with special needs need a break. Unlike other parents, we have particular stresses (well-documented ones) that make time away from the kids even more necessary and helpful. It is no surprise, really, that as humans and as parents in a relationship, we do better when we get time to ourselves to regroup, rejuvenate and just enjoy a meal where nobody is screeching, kick-kick-kicking the table or trying to make a break for the exit.

That said, if the results of the study could get more community agencies and public institutions to offer respite care—with policymakers pushing for funding—that would be rather awesome. There is not enough out there. When Max was a baby, we got at-home respite care via a program through our local Arc. Those Saturday nights out were lifesavers for us; we were so overwhelmed by the time and cost demands of Max’s therapies, and we were still grief-stricken. Eventually, that program had cutbacks and Max was no longer eligible.

It’s gotten increasingly hard to find respite programs (let alone ones where a sitter comes to our home), though Max still participates in a weekend daytime activity program, also through The Arc. Our gym has Parents Night Out; we used to be able to leave Max there, but when a head staffer informed us they would not be willing to help feed him, that went out the door (I know, I know: It oughta be illegal). I know of other parents whose churches offer respite services.

These days, we have a sitter who comes at least one Saturday night a month to watch the kids, if not more. My husband and I don’t just deserve this time. we need it. It’s like therapy, but the most fun kind there is.

How do you give yourselves a break?

From my other blog:

Breaking news: Special needs mom’s head explodes! 

The super-happy days of my life

Image of couple enjoying a drink together via Shutterstock

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