Hudson Valley Parent

HVP - March 2014

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32 Hudson Valley Parent n March 2014 "I see the stress that it causes them," she says. "My advice for the moms I work with is to join support groups and parent groups. This is such a great resource for parents and a great opportunity to meet and re- late to other families going through the same struggles." Learn to say 'no' Let go of everything you thought you were "supposed to do" in the life you had before. It's OK to forego the Christmas cards and PTA meetings. "I became another person when my life with autism began," recalls Helen Tolan, a mother from Harriman. "I am now thankful for simple things and anything that makes me laugh." Tolan says she has to allow herself permission to say no to many things that may be necessary or important. "When the time isn't right, it isn't right," she says. "I am still learning to accept myself, even when I'm disap- pointed with how I did — or didn't — do something." Make time for yourself "From early on, when my son was first diagnosed, I made it a point to go out every couple of months with my friends," says Nicole Forbes, a medicaid service coordinator at Greystone Programs who is a single mother to Justin, an autistic teen- ager. "Dancing and socializing with other moms is a great stress reliever. It's important to remember your own needs as a person. Time must be set aside for fun and things you enjoy. It doesn't change things. It just makes me a better mom." Tolan agrees. "Crocheting is therapeutic," she says. "I like watching horror movies and occasionally tuning into some of the trashy reality shows. I love my child with all my heart, but I also have a job that I enjoy — and when I'm working, I'm not thinking about autism." Accept change Understand and accept that your relationships with certain people, in- cluding your spouse, other children, and long-time friends and family will change. Mothers of autistic children are reported to be more withdrawn and uneasy than mothers of neu- ro-typical children. According to Psychology Today, the divorce rate is considerably higher among couples that have a child with autism. Opportunity for growth The incidence for autism has risen from 1 in 10,000 in 1970, to 1 in 50, according to the Center for Disease Control. I fear this number will con- tinue to rise. To other Hudson Valley parents who have children with autism: Con- sider this journey your greatest op- portunity for growth as a spouse, a parent, a friend, and a human being. You have been given a job reserved for saints. It is not an easy road we walk, but I am very proud to be in your company. You are not alone. Laura Licata Sullivan is a free- lance writer who lives in Campbell Hall with her husband and three sons AUTISM (Continued from Page 30) Nicole Forbes, a single mom to 16-year-old Justin, makes a point of going out every cou- ple of months with her friends. "It just makes me a better mom." Autism resources For assistance and support, contact any of these great Hud- son Valley organizations: Mental Health Association in Orange County, Inc. Middletown 845-342-2400 Support groups meet month- ly, providing opportunities for encouragement, networking and sharing experiences. Greystone Programs, Inc. Poughkeepsie 845-452-5772 Weekend, after-school and school-break respite for children ages 6 and up with autism and related disablities, and provides intensive training. Their head- quarters are in Dutchess County, but they have service locations throughout the Hudson Valley. Autism Society of America Kingston 845-331-2626 The Hudson Valley Chapter of Autism Society of America pro- vides information and support to the autism community. Crystal Run Village Respite House Middletown 845-692-2561 Respite House offers parents and primary caregivers a tempo- rary break from the demands of caring for their family member with a disability. Hourly, daily or overnight "like home" su- pervision in a comfortable safe environment with room and board possible for short-term or long-term stays.

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