The Different Types of Autism Parents

Woman using a laptop late at night

What are autism parents like? While every individual is unique, chances are you'll find some aspects of yourself (or someone you know) in these autism parents "types."

Types of Parents With Autistic Children

The Martyr: You have a child with a disability, and you are going to do anything you possibly can—no matter how difficult, expensive, or painful—to help him or her. You've sought out every doctor, therapist, and therapy within a hundred-mile radius, and you're thinking seriously of traveling cross-country to consult an autism expert in California who comes highly recommended.

Your dedication is absolute, which means that it can be very tough for you to find the time, energy, money, or desire to pursue your own interests or to be available to anyone other than your autistic child.

The Advocate: You know the law, and you know that your child has the right to access wide range services, programs, supports, and opportunities. You see yourself as the "squeaky wheel" who is determined to get the grease. You've gone to every special education workshop and webinar, you come to IEP meetings armed with reams of notes, you're the head of special needs parent group in your district, and you often find yourself coaching other parents on their rights and (when necessary) how to find a good lawyer.

The Warrior:  You have a child who needs your protection, and—like a lion or lioness—you will provide that protection. You are ready, willing, and able to take on bullies, teachers, school districts—anyone who threatens to create any kind of problem for your child.

You may also be in the process of building an "army" of supporters in the form of like-minded parents who see their children as potential victims in a dangerous world.

The Saint:  You feel that your child with special needs is a gift — and that you have a unique ability to be your child's parent. You dedicate yourself to joyfully caring for your child, and find it difficult to admit when things are difficult. 

You may choose to "cushion" yourself and your child from the world's challenges by sticking to situations in which you know you will be successful.

The Builder: Your child with autism needs a particular type of therapy—so you get trained to provide it. You feel your child needs a certain kind of education, so you start up a school. You want a product for your child that you can't find on the market—so you develop it on your own. You're a whirlwind of activity, but you may also find that you're too exhausted to actually enjoy the fruits of your labors.

The Victim: All around you are happy families with typical, successful children. But you are the parent of a child with a permanent disability. Your peers are all moving forward in their careers, but your career has been sidelined to cope with therapists, IEPs, sibling rivalry, and spousal frustrations. While you love your autistic child, there is a part of you that feels you'd be happier and more fulfilled without him.

The Researcher: All night, every night, until 2 a.m., you're tapping away at the computer combing through forums to find a few more scraps of information about autism therapies. Every day you're "interviewing" the parents you meet at autism support groups and in therapists' offices, asking about their choice of treatment, preferred therapist, school program, and teacher. 

Your notebooks are filled with phone numbers and web addresses. You know more about autism and autism supports and treatments than most experts—but you still feel like you're feeling your way in the dark.

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