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How does divorce impact children with autism?

As a parent of a child with special needs, something you want to do is to take steps to ensure that your divorce proceeds as “low key” and as simple as possible. Keeping stress and anxiety levels low will protect your child from being unnecessarily negatively affected by your divorce.  It can be difficult for a person going through a divorce to maintain their normal activities, and no one wants to see their child struggle because of fear, doubt, misunderstanding or their own inability to express themselves or understand what’s happening.

If you have a child with autism, you are in a unique situation. Your child may have difficulty communicating or understanding how you feel. You can use this opportunity to teach them about handling strong emotions, but with the understanding that it is more challenging for children who are used to consistency and familiarity.

How can you make the divorce easier on your child? Consistency is key

For many children with autism, consistency is the key to a successful transition from a dual-parent household to one with a single parent. Possession of your child will be divided between both parents in varying degrees.  It is especially important for both parents to maintain consistent patterns in both homes.

A strong parenting plan is important in maintaining consistency and can be a significant help in easing the transition for the child. If the parents cannot agree on how to raise their child, then the child will most likely have a far more difficult time adjusting to the divorce and their new one-parent home.

What should you do if you don’t think the other parent can handle your child’s needs?

It is clear that understanding and managing a child with autism’s needs can be difficult and frustrating. If one of the parents isn’t willing or capable of providing for their child in an appropriate manner given his or her particular disability, then serious consideration should be given for the parent who is willing and capable to care for the child to have the majority of the time with the child, while to other parent exercises consistent but shorter periods of possession and/or visitation.

A divorce is a difficult time for everyone involved, but knowing what your child needs and advocating for them will help you come up with a solid parenting plan and a custody schedule that works for your child’s best interests. If you and your spouse cannot agree, then providing specific information about your child’s needs to the judge is of vital importance.