A peek into the life of mom Dilshad Ali and her autistic son Daanish reveals an exhausting day that requires organization (from feeding him pancakes every morning to tucking him into bed at 8:45 p.m. every night), activism (fighting to get Daanish into the right school programs), forethought (anticipating his moods, which vary from hour to hour, minute to minute) and patience (enabling Daanish to experience life in his own unique way).
It's true mothers of autistic children often do double, sometimes even triple the work of other moms. But all agree that the love they share with their child is something they wouldn't trade for anything in the world. You spend every moment working to keep your child's routine calm and happy, but don't forget to take care of yourself, too. Here are five ways to refuel.
1. Practice yoga
Yoga is one of the easiest and most effective ways to keep stress at bay and improve your mindset. Anywhere you can place your mat, you can tap into serenity. According to the American Yoga Association, the practice of yoga helps you to access an inner strength that enables you to take on everyday challenges with a calmer, more peaceful attitude. Incorporate a yoga routine that fits in seamlessly with your child's, whether it be in the morning or evening, and you'll create a coping mechanism thatâ€™s healing for both your mind and body.
2. Treat yourself
That ratty old handbag, tattered wallet or threadbare shoes you're too busy to replace are calling your name out as a way to treat yourself. The occasional splurge, especially if it's on an item you use nearly every day, can give your spirit a boost. Resist the urge to go cheap, though. Invest in classic, well-made accessories like that Coach handbag you've been eyeing, they are durable enough to last for many years while still keeping you stylish.
3. Try new recipes
Moms of autistic children often face their biggest challenges at mealtime. Autistic children are five times more likely to have mealtime challenges such as ritualistic behaviors, limited cuisine choices and tantrums, according to the Marcus Autism Center at Emory University School of Medicine. If youâ€™re craving dishes that don't interest your child, make them anyway. It's important you nourish your body as well. Encourage your child to look at, touch and taste the food you make. Autism Speaks suggests offering them choices, as they may learn to love something new.
4. Keep a journal
Maintaining a journal enables you to express yourself without fear of what anyone else might think. Mothers of autistic children experience a roller coaster of emotions, and every emotion you feel is OK, whether it be disappointment, frustration or joy. Writing your thoughts down will not only help you let go of some stress, but it will also serve as a log you can look back on to see how far you've come.
5. Join a support group
It's easy for moms of autistic children to feel different and alone. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to connect with moms with similar experiences. It's totally up to you if you want to reach out online or in person. Meetup.com has a robust, growing community of more than 10,000 moms of autistic children from all across the country. Some groups are just for the moms, while others encourage you to bring your child along to socialize. If youâ€™re nervous, remember that helping others is one of the best ways to increase your own happiness and satisfaction. Try a group and you may just be able to lend a helping hand or ear to someone who needs you.