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Having a child with ASD adds another layer to divorce stress

Sometimes, having a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder will strengthen marriages. Sometimes the stress of dealing with ASD drives couples apart.

Divorce is a tough event for any family to go through, but for couples with an autistic child, the top priority is finding ways to help the child adjust.

Addressing change

One of the biggest problems divorcing parents face is that a child who has ASD may have an extremely adverse reaction to change, and when a family unit breaks up, change is everywhere. Your best course of action is to prepare your child for changes as best you can. Depending on his or age and cognitive level, professional counseling may be helpful.

Dividing time

Having to transition between two homes will disrupt your child's routine. Tell him or her what the custody schedule is and make it a priority to keep to that schedule. Using visuals often helps. Consider putting up a large calendar in each home. Post the custody schedule so your child knows when he or she will be visiting each of you. Post the child’s scheduled activities, too, and talk about all this ahead of time so that your child knows what to expect and can feel that you and the other parent have established a routine.

Making decisions

Both parents should take part in decision-making, but that often depends on who has legal or physical custody of the child. For example, decisions about the child’s education and medical care normally fall to the person who has legal custody. However, you should also figure out which of you gets the child on school holidays or during summer vacations. Given the importance of routine in the life of a child with ASD, sorting out such plans as far in advance of the event as possible, and then providing reminders, will help your child adjust and even look forward to the event.

Seeking support

A family law attorney experienced with the raising of an autistic child will be able to help you cope with the challenges of divorce and how this change in the family structure will affect your child. While it is true that problems will arise, they can be managed with love, foresight and thoughtful planning.

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