I am a dad and my child has ASD - am I making a difference?

Fathers don’t really need to be told that reading to their children and staying involved will help their children to develop. They know that already. And if their child has ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder), they probably don’t need to be told that the same applies.

But part of the difficulty with being parents is that you sometimes lose the motivation to keep going with these things. If you feel that singing to your baby isn’t really achieving anything or if you feel that your kids don’t understand the stories you’re reading, it can be quite demotivating. You might even stop doing it altogether.

If you knew that your actions were going to make a difference to your child (or had good reason to believe it), you might be more motivated to keep going. And that’s why it can be really helpful to know that research affirms [1] that these our actions, however small, really do matter.

The latest research suggests that the effects of a father’s caregiving will benefit the child’s development. Caregiving includes:

  • Reading them a story
  • Singing them a song
  • Soothing them when they’re upset or taking them to see the doctor 
  • Playing with them
  • Bathing them
  • Responding to them when they cry

Interestingly, the study [1] by lead author Daniel J. Laxman revealed something more. His team found that fathers who take active role in their caregiving with their children can actually help boost the mental health of the mother.

This is especially important for dads who have children with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) because previous research has shown that mothers of these children often experience higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression than other mothers.

“Fathers who read to their children, or respond when the child cries, can give the mothers respite, enabling mothers to perform other tasks or engage in self-care activities that boost their mood and reduce stress”.

"One of the key criteria of autism is difficulty with communication, which may explain why these children's mothers are especially susceptible to stress and depression", Laxman said. "It can be very frustrating for parents - and upsetting for children - when children struggle with communication… By improving children's communication skills, fathers' literacy activities may help alleviate some of the mothers' concerns and stress related to these problems".

By being a more involved dad, you also become a stronger support for your partner, so keep reading and keep singing to your child. What you’re doing matters.

References
 

[1] http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10995-014-1608-7

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