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Autism File Magazine: At Holiday Time Follow Your Heart

Chris and whole familyOur friends at Autism File Magazine have shared an article on The Holidays.  We invite you to subscribe to The Autism File - published by Belvoir Media.   Every issue is loaded with info about education, recreation, family challenges, biomedical treatments, adult issues and more.  Our own Cathy Jameson and Dan Burns write for the Autism File as does that Managing Editor lady with the pink books.  :)

By Christina Adams

After a tense pre-Thanksgiving dinner out, our young son climbed into my soon-to-be ex’s station wagon and they left for five days. Staring at the setting sun from the parking lot, I realized I’d be alone the whole time.  My family lived far away, my friends were busy and I was too proud to interrupt anyway. My mood fell into the classic single’s “nobody cares if I live or die” feeling. Drifting around town that Saturday, I bought a sparkly white almost-prom dress with lipstick-red flowers, a discount-rack promise that I wasn’t dead yet and might actually wear a pretty dress again. By Christmas Eve, I was meeting new male and female friends for holiday drinks, and I moved into a cute condo behind a convenience store on a rainy New Year’s morning.

A festive but drama-filled year and a half after that miserable Thanksgiving, I flew home from the Memorial Day Autism One conference in Chicago. Reluctantly doing my dating “homework,” I paged through the weekly listing of singles from an online dating service, and found Tony—who’d posted a profile just for the three-day holiday weekend. My brief note to him was a near-miss as he’d planned to take it down within minutes!

We soon met for a three-hour lunch and although I was afraid of marriage, I knew by its end we would wed. After I spent the July Fourth weekend in Virginia with family, Tony met my son for the first time at the airport. That night, he gave me a card pledging his love and commitment. I wore my prom dress with red flowers to his company winter holiday party, and we were married in August 2009 at an old Tennessee plantation.

Holidays are emotionally risky for singles, but their original purpose was to mark death, rebirth and the change of seasons. If you’ve just realized your relationship is over or have just become a solo parent, begin your break-up recovery with seasonal inspiration, planning and celebration.

Set your expectations to slightly non-normal

Becoming single or divorced as an ASD parent “…is not the same as other people who are divorcing. You work a lot harder than the average parent,” says Dr. Kathy Marshack, a Washington psychologist specializing in ASD families. She advises surrounding yourself with people who understand life with an ASD kid, such as an autism support group.

If you’re breaking up with the child’s parent, separations may reveal a huge difference in parenting styles. You two may not get along, but kids who know both parents love them are not very troubled by this, Dr. Marshack says. She cautions that ASD traits in other family members may add to the stress of the separation.

Wrap up a short-term survival plan                       

Make sure you have some cash in the bank and a credit card. Ensure your living arrangements offer you a temporary place for peace and some alone time, even if you have to cohabitate with the ex temporarily (something I did but don’t advise—stress and lack of privacy causes problems). Hire a sitter if the other parent isn’t available—childcare may be a legally sharable expense.

Call your local developmental agency, United Cerebral Palsy or YMCA and ask for additional respite, homecare and daycare aide services for you and your child if needed. Seek new mental health services if you feel very stressed even if it’s strictly a romantic breakup. ASD parents are pre-burdened with stress so reaching for help is right for us even if other people wouldn’t.

Write it down—and feel better

Crawl into your bed or behind your favorite coffee shop table with paper and a pen. A study showed 100 new singles gained comfort, relief, thankfulness and wisdom when they wrote about the positive aspects of their breakup for 15 to 30 minutes a day.

Put those silver linings down on paper and see if your mental black clouds lift. Then burn them ceremonially over a Yule Log or a cheap candle—the flames are quite satisfying. Or call a friend for a burning hearts party!  Read the full article HERE.

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