Here is another great piece from Trapper Shafer, an autistic adult and father to both neurotypical and autistic children. Enjoy!
Taking Care of Them, Starts With Taking Care of You
Much of my professional work experience is in direct care. My specialty is working with teens that are severely mentally and emotionally disturbed. I hold certifications in Professional Assault Crisis Training (ProACT) and Life Space Crisis Interventions (LSCI). While all the training and experience with those intervention programs and using them with teens with difficult to manage behaviors, no amount of training or practice will be enough, if you aren’t taking care of yourself. Working in a group home treatment environment is one thing. I got to leave every night at 10:00 PM. Quitting time isn’t a real thing when the house and children are yours. This is why you need a self-care plan.
Thirty to One
There are a lot of different ideas around the concept of self-care, some will say just 30 minutes a day while others will say 5 hours a week. The method that we used at the facility I worked at was the thirty to one ratio. For every thirty days you need one day of self care. Breaking that down that its 48 minutes per day. What worked for me was doing an hour a day. This mean that it was okay if I missed a day here and there. When you have kiddos with autism you know that all the planning in the world and a planned routine for every day, doesn’t mean you get that routine perfect everyday. Somedays, the needs of your kiddo will come first, and that is okay. Just do your best not to skip out on self-care for an entire week.
You Can Have All The Options
There are so many self-care tools available, most of them are no cost or low cost. When selecting an activity for self-care, the most important factor to bear in mind is that it should not add stress to you daily life. For many people, myself included, reclaiming an activity that we gave up due to the demands of life is a good starting point. I used to rollerskate quite frequently in high school. As I began my self-care plan I got a pair of rollerblades and started skating two to three times a week. My wife and I work together so that we can cover when the other is out of the house (or off-campus as we call it) for our self-care time. In all, I have six activities that I can do, during my self-care time. The reason to have a list like that is because sometime, weather will prevent me from skating, or I may not be able to get out of the house.
Now let’s talk about what happens when you miss your self-care time for weeks on end. Within the professional environment of the group home, I could always tell when my co-workers were off their self-care wagon. Burnout is a common way people describe this. When you are dealing with autism, this burnout can render you ineffective at helping your kiddo. My wife can always tell when I start to get burnt out because my “autism is showing,” as she phrases it. Those are the moments where I need to “tap out” because I’m hyperfixating on one thing, and my son is hyperfixating on another, and both of our autistic brains are stuck. My wife is super understanding and can tag me out pretty quickly when she sees it, or the times when I notice I’m doing it.
With that, I encourage you to take some time, make a self-care plan. It will help you avoid those burnt-out moments. Ultimately helping you stay in tip-top mental shape. Ready and able to help your autistic kiddo however they may need your support.
Trapper Shafer is an adult with autism and the father to five wonderful children, of whom 2 are autistic as well. He is also the founder of UNPUZLD, a clothing brand promoting autism acceptance and supporting autism by donating 50% of all profits back to various autism foundations. If you are interested in learning more about Trapper and his work, you can visit his website here: https://unpuzld.wordpress.com
Dr. Jessica Myszak has had over 11 years of experience performing psychological evaluations with children and adults. She offers both in-person and telehealth evaluations. In addition to seeing clients on the Chicago North Shore, she is able to work with families who reside in Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina, Washington DC, Wisconsin, and soon, Alabama and Kentucky! If you are interested in learning more about potentially working with her, you can visit her website here or email her here to get the process started.