Tuesday, February 7th, 2012
I was talking with a financial planner the other day, and in the course of our conversation he mentioned that 80 percent of parents of kids with special needs divorce. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard the stat thrown around. It is, however, incorrect.
A study released in May 2011 based on 78,000 children found that 64 percent of kids with autism had two or more biological or adoptive parents—compared to 65 percent of kids who didn’t have an autism spectrum disorder. Read, there’s no difference in the divorce rate.
In my circle of special needs friends, I know of only one couple who divorced—and they weren’t the right match to start with, as the woman herself said to me. It seems likely that when a marriage isn’t solid to start with, the odds are higher that a couple with special needs would split up. You need a super-strong relationship to withstand the challenges and pressures. You might recall the study that showed moms of kids with autism have stress similar to combat soldiers. Previous studies have showed higher rates of depression among parents of kids with autism.
Max has cerebral palsy due to a stroke at birth, and my marriage has weathered the stresses pretty well. As Max has gotten older and developed, my husband and I have developed, too—we’ve developed emotionally, we’ve developed coping mechanisms, and we’ve developed strategies that help make our life work. One of the key things we’ve done is play to our strengths as a couple and as individuals. I am the researcher and the organizer; Dave is great with doing activities with Max and hands-on care like helping to feed him and giving baths. He is also very good at tossing him around up high in the air so he laughs and laughs.
We also take time to nourish our relationship. We have date nights. When we go on vacation, we find childcare so we can have some R&R alone. At night, after the kids are in bed, we hang out over coffee and catch up.
What strategies do you and your husband have that helps with having a child who has special needs?
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