A diagnosis of anything typically leads to statistics.
- 1 in 110 children are diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder according to a commercial on tv.
- 1 in 88 are diagnosed with Autism according to Autism Speaks
- 1 in 54 are boys.
- More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes & cancer combined.
- Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S.
But the scariest one to me is the exaggerated statistic that 80% of marriages in families affected by autism end in divorce. Luckily, the true number is closer to 36% only 1% more than a typical family. Any marriage can be stressful, you have to worry about household budgets, who cleans the dishes, who leaves wet towels on the floor or hair in the sink. Add in the kids and suddenly you are a chauffeur, a short order cook, a housekeeper and a laundromat; probably all while working a 40 hour week. The romance fizzles, and we all know what can happen next. For a family with Autism Spectrum Disorder the stress is enhanced and money gets tighter. Special diets make it hard to eat out in some cases. Meltdowns or behavioral issues can make it difficult to go anywhere. Doctors visits, psychiatrists, behavioral counseling and occupational therapy eat up time and resources. Parents are frustrated, worn out and just plain exhausted.
I no longer qualify as a newlywed, but I am nowhere near an expert on marriage either, at least not any except my own. A marriage takes work, a lot of work some days, but for us our relationship mantra is Work Hard, Play Harder. We make time for each other every day. The kid has a strict bedtime for the specific purpose of giving my husband and I some alone time every night. As often as we can we have date night. Then there is the romance.. Neither of us is particularly romantic, but as our friends say, “You two make me barf with your cuteness.” My husband sends me a love note on google chat every single day when he leaves the house, without fail. I put little notes in his lunches, or on his Facebook wall. I like to use things like, “We go together like peas and carrots.” or “I love you more than old men love soup.” We also always go to bed together. That’s not particularly romantic, but I like to think it keeps us connected. Bottom line: We try to act the same way we did when we first started dating. We spend most of every day together, we remember to say I love you a lot! And we are thankful for what we have. We cherish and nurture it. Love isn’t something that once attained will continue on it’s own like some mechanical device. It’s like a garden– you’re gonna find weeds, and gross bugs, and maybe an evil bougainvillea every now and then, but at the end of the day it was worth the effort of caretaking.
One of the most endearing traits of my husband is his commitment to family. It was one of the many reasons I fell head over heels for him. The most poignant example of this has been when we decided to try The Food Plan (it’s capitalized because it has become its own entity). It might have been easier and certainly cheaper if Cullen was the only one on a special diet, but Mike felt like it would be more fair if we all did it together. Now, Cullen isn’t alone when he passes on the sugary treats, bread or fruit. We are right there with him. He has a support team and he is learning that family sticks together. My husband is great at telling me to stop and relax. I have a slight control freak tendency (and by slight I mean I would take over the world if not held in check), and Mike is always right there to help me with my latest hare-brained scheme or to force me to just take a break and put my feet up. He’s my ultimate de-stresser and with a cocktail (slightly healthier when homemade) in hand we both get to chill out together.
I also think that all the PDA and lovey-doveyness is great for the kids to see. Lead by example people!! So remember, whether you have 3 kids, 1 kid with Asperger’s, or a pet turtle, your spouse needs your undivided attention for a portion of each day. Take care of them and they will take care of you.