Finding a work-life balance as a parent is difficult enough. When you have a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) you face a unique set of challenges in trying to accomplish your work goals while also being there for your child. Whether you are a stay-at-home parent, a remote worker, work part time or work away from home, there are many additional factors you have to consider when trying to accomplish your goals. For example, when choosing school or care for your child, you have to factor in how comfortable the teacher or caretaker is with ASD. Transitions are difficult for a child with ASD, and they may require additional help along the way. Also, you have to factor in the many visits to doctors and therapists. For those who choose to stay at home, there may be misunderstanding over your choice. Unfortunately, many people do not understand ASD and may not be sympathetic to you or your child.
- Try freelancing: Freelancing may not necessarily be any easier than working a traditional 9-to-5 job, but it has one advantage over any other job. It gives you control over your job situation. You can work the hours you choose, doing what you want to do, and can change gears anytime you want to as well. You set your own vacation times, working rules, and rates that you charge your clients. It sounds ideal, but keep in mind that it might take some time to build up your clientele. On the other hand, you can be there for your child during any emergency and set a predictable schedule for regular time together. This can work really well if your spouse already has a reliable income to support you as you build up your business.
- Find a job at your child’s school: You might be surprised at the types of jobs available in a school setting. You could put your skills to work as a teacher, sub, counselor, business manager, vocational trainer, coach, programmer, bus driver, and a myriad of sets of skills that could land you a job at your child’s school. This allows you the chance to be close to your child in case of a meltdown, give your child the comfort of knowing you are nearby, and a chance to get to know his teachers and advocate for more ASD services and for your child’s specific needs.
- Have your spouse or a family member help you: We all have our energy limits. Ask your spouse to help with chores or parent duty so you can get a much-needed break or focus on completing work tasks. If a spouse is unavailable, consider asking for help from a family member to take a child for a sleepover or the weekend. Or have them come and spend time with your child in the home while you catch up on sleep, work, or house chores. It’s okay to ask for help.
- Find a care center: For children who have a hard time adjusting, it might be difficult at first to place them in a care center. However, over time, they might enjoy being around other children their age who also have similar conditions. You have the comfort of knowing that all the caretakers there are trained in ASD issues, and will understand your child’s various needs.
- Telecommute: Telecommuting, or working part-time from home for an employer is an ever-growing option in today’s fast-paced world. Many employers are finding that offering the option to telecommute at least one day a week increases productivity and boosts company morale. Many tasks that were traditionally only possible in an office setting are now becoming quite doable in a home-setting, thanks to computers, the internet, mobile and web apps, and chat services. You can now conduct meetings, enter data, field questions, and even teach all from the comfort of home. Ask your employer if telecommuting is an option. If it isn’t currently offered, ask what it would take for it to become available. It could be that no one has ever asked, but your boss might be open to the idea. It never hurts to try. By working from home, you can avoid office politics, focus on work at hand, be close to your child, and meet all the work deadlines.
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Remember that every child with ASD is different and has different needs. So while staying at home may be the best option for some parents, finding a care center or working at a child’s school may be better for other parents with children of different needs. Only you know what is best for you and your family.
About the Author
Jenny Benedetti is a successful supermom who has spent years finding the perfect work-life balance while raising a child with ASD. She spends her days running her cleaning business, iQ Cleaning, and taking care of her son during her free time. She is a firm believer that entrepreneurship empowers parents of children with special needs by giving them the flexibility they need to truly help their child not only get by, but thrive.