Friday, September 24, 2010

Autism's Impact on Marriage and Work

Can you believe that the t.v. show, "Parenthood," has been on twice this season, and I haven't even mentioned it here yet? I can't believe it! I watched both episodes and was blown away by them. Each show managed to make me laugh and cry.

They're still doing an unbelievably real depiction of Asperger's. The first episode didn't focus too much on it other than showing a little bit of behavior therapy in action. The second episode didn't focus on it directly too much either. But what it did do was show the impact that having a kid on the spectrum can have on marriage and work.

One thing most parents of kids on the spectrum hear is that the divorce rate for us is much higher than for the general population. A common statistic that is thrown around is that 80 percent of marriages with a child with autism will end in divorce. I recently read that the statistic, while being widely talked about, is not really based on fact. Nobody really knows what the actual divorce rate is.

It is probably safe to assume it's higher than the general population, however. For one thing, there is probably extra stress in the household from parenting a child (or children) on the spectrum. For another thing, there are just more issues to argue about. For example, do you fight for any service possible, hiring expensive lawyers along the way? Or do you grab whatever is offered to you, thankful you don't have to pay for everything out-of-pocket? Do you pursue one type of therapy or another? The potential issues to fight about are pretty endless, and there always feels like there is so much at stake with each issue.

On "Parenthood," friends of the Braverman's were separating because the husband felt neglected by his wife who was consumed with their son's issues, not leaving much time or energy for the two of them. I suppose this can happen as well, although it did come off as sounding a bit petty. Nevertheless, I'm sure there are a lot of marriages that do end in divorce simply because one of the spouses feels totally neglected.

The other issue was how work can be impacted. On the show, Adam Braverman was stressing about his job. The company he works for has been impacted by the recession. His boss, the company owner, has commented on how work doesn't seem to be a priority for Adam. And the truth is, his son's autism diagnosis and treatments have taken on a huge priority in Adam's life. So, naturally, Adam is worried about his job security.

I was really able to relate to both of the aspects depicted on the show. My husband and I have certainly butted heads a lot on what the best way to proceed is. We probably agree the bulk of the time, but not always. Also, being a one-income family, I do worry about what impact the recession will have on my husband's job. He has made our daughter his number one priority, so there is always that worry that it can have an impact with his job.

While I think we'll be absolutely fine on both counts, it is extra stress in our lives. "Parenthood" has done an amazing job of depicting the challenges and joys of having a child with autism.

16 comments:

  1. Personally, I don't believe the feelings of being ignored in favor of a child are petty. I've been around lots of couples who've struggled to find balance while raising a child with special needs. Some folks handle it better than others. Been there, done that, lived to remember it well.

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  2. I think the neglect issue can be real. Some people have kids with spouses they don't really like that much so, the kids gives them an excuse to not pay attention to the spouse they don't really like. Sometimes though, yeah, the problem is with the pettiness of the spouse who thinks they are being neglected because they aren't the center of attention 24/7 anymore.

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  3. i have had my share too of these stresses. esp. financial. i feel like i can't work since i have to be on call for my son if and when they call for me to come get him at school

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  4. I have never watched the show.. but you are the 2nd person this week who has mentioned its a must watch show.. so.. Cheryl.. Im in....

    I am sure the spectrum stresses a marriage... my cousin has a special need child (Down Syndrome) and by the babys 2nd birthday the marriage was done.. she still tells me the marriage collapsed because of the special needs of her daughter took its toll... My prayers are always with you my strong friend... Hugs!!xoxo!!!

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  5. Thanks for your post. We're new to the ASD world (our son is 3 and will be starting ABA next week.) I can't tell you the number of times I've longed for "the good ol' days" with my husband before being so preoccupied w/ our son's issues. We adopted him a year and a half ago and I've said many times how much I have aged since bringing our son into our lives. Lucky my husband is incredibly supportive and we have good insurance (in addition to medicaid for our son). I also had planned on returning to work, and now am home with our kiddo...so we've taken a hit financially. Yes, all these things DO take their toll!

    Chris
    www.acrazykindoffaith.blogspot.com

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  6. I worry about both counts. I always wondered about the 80% thing because sometimes I think it's even harder to divorce because of all of the financial implications. As far as work, my biggest worry is that the first thing a prospective employer will do is Google me, find my blog, and then not even consider me for a job because I have a special needs child that would distract me from my work.

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  7. This season has been fabulous so far. I'm so glad it's back.

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  8. A brave and very relevant post. The thing is, I have four healthy kids, and I find that if the marriage is strong, the kids having problems won't effect it that much. I think having kids with difficulties of some sort can, if anything, make the marriage closer and stronger.

    Coming via Saturday Sampling..

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  9. Glad you are finding a realistic portrayal of Asperger's on t.v. My husband and I are both chronically ill and are son has some challenges. Sometimes we feel like we are fighting a war instead of a marriage but at least we are fighting it together.

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  10. I love that show too but somehow missed the beg. of this season, thanks for reminding me. I can see the extra stressors taking their toll but sounds like you and your husband are a pretty great team!

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  11. There are so many things we worry about, it causes tons and tons of stress. I know what you mean about being OK, but still butting heads and all that. I haven't even seen the show yet, but everyone keeps telling me I should. I'm going to ask my husband to download it for me...

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  12. I absolutely love that show too! I totally agree with everything you've said here -- I think they've done an amazingly accurate job of depicting the reality of autism on a family -- as well as the child himself.

    And goodness knows, we've felt the impact on our marriage from time-to-time. I'm really lucky to have such an awesome husband who is still, after eight years, my best friend. Because we've been through some trying times.

    The only thing I find unrealistic is the tidiness of Kristina's house and her picture-perfect hair and clothes. One time they showed the inside of her linen closet, and every towel was perfect folded and color-coordinated!! Who has time or energy for all that on top of trips to therapy, phone calls to insurance, paperwork for gov't agencies, IEP meetings, and the feeding, clothing, and bathing of all our kids ???

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  13. Sounds good; maybe I'll check it out.

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  14. I LOVE the show! As soon as I "came out" on my blog about my son's diagnosis, multiple people suggested I watch it. So, the hubsters and I sat in our office after the kids were asleep and watched 95% of season 1 (via hulu) over a week or so. Each of us either cried and/or laughed at each episode. We're completely hooked and talk all the time about whether our 3 yr old will be like Max or a little more mainstream by the time he's that age...given the early diagnosis.

    BTW, I just started reading your blog....love it! Although I'm still going through the frustration of being an aspie mom as opposed to celebrating the uniqueness and strengths of our kids....hopefully that'll come soon. :)

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  15. mbamommy! Oh, it's soooooo hard in the beginning! I felt so sick to my stomach for days. But it gets better--I promise! While there are still bad days, for the most part, we're having a great time, and my daughter is doing great! My daughter didn't start getting services until she was close to 5! And she's made huge strides in the last year and a half. It's great that your son was diagnosed so young.

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  16. I love this show! And I think they do a great job of showing Asperger's from a variety of angles (although the manic friends are a bit stereotypical).

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