Yoga_3By Cyndi Kershner

Autism moms and dads, I have four simple words for all of you: take care of yourselves. If you want to be there to see the fruits of all your hard labors in healing your children, you must make time for yourselves and reduce your stress levels.

Let me be the cautionary tale. I have been working hard the last 10 years toward healing my son’s autism. Non-stop sixteen hour days of therapy, supplements, negotiating insurance, navigating the school system, IEP’s, special diets, test results, and figuring out how to pay (or not pay) all the bills…sound familiar? After eight years of this, something had to give, and the thing that gave was my health, and pretty darn near my marriage.

What good is everything we do for our kids as autism supermommies and superdaddies if we crash and burn in the process?

I know, I know, you’re saying there’s absolutely no way you have the time, energy, or money to take care of yourself along with all the other things that need to get done. But just take a portion of the time, energy, and money that you’re pouring into your kids’ therapies and direct it toward yourself.

There is no class or book or doctor out there who will help you with this one.

I wanted to pass along some in the trenches tips on what we all need to do to stay proactively healthy and grounded as we go through this crazy process of trying to heal our kids, and these are the practices I have adopted over the last two years in the hopes of  creating health in my body and in my family. So here it is: How to Survive Autism 101.
First, get a spiritual practice. It can be Jesus, Buddha, a Higher Power, the great Cosmic Force, I don’t care what it is, just have a belief in something larger than yourself that you can turn to so that the whole thing isn’t on your shoulders.

Second, exercise. Really. It helps more than I can tell you. Again, doesn’t matter what kind of exercise, whatever floats your boat. And the boat floating isn’t optional; you actually have to like it, or it’ll be just one more thing to check off your list.. Walk, chase the dog around, garden, do yoga, hike. A couple times a week, enough to get your heart going.
Third, reduce your stress level. Stress is the root cause of most illness, and its endemic in the autism community. Exercise helps a lot with this one. Prayer and meditation are really helpful here as well.

Keep the financial stress manageable by not overspending your income every month; being in serious debt for years on end is not healthy. My partner and I decided to prioritize therapies rather than doing them all at the same time, and stay mostly in the black.

Have at least one other interest besides autism. It will keep you balanced as you work to create the best possible outcome for your child and family, and it helps to be able to relate to the rest of the human race. Remember, not everyone knows their way around the methylation pathway.Listening to some comedy every day. My partner and I watch a sitcom we like every night before bed. It’s nice to have something predictable we can count on every day, and laughter also takes the stress down a notch.

Get out, away from autism and the house, once a week. Go to Barnes and Noble, have a latte and read a novel. Go to the movies. Go for a really long drive and get a cheeseburger. Recruit anyone who is not an axe-murderer and will take your children, one night a week. For single parents, I know this is really tough, but try for regular time away.

Eat well. I don’t know how many parents I talk to who go to great lengths to make amazing food for their children and live off junk food themselves. For me it’s the siren call of the potato chips whenever the stress really hits. I am a reforming junk food junkie myself, and eating well is one of the most grounding things you can do in your parenting.

Junk food days are always the days I lose my temper, and when I eat well I usually don’t.
For couples, marriage therapy is great. Having an autistic child is one of those life lemons that breaks up a lot of marriages, and therapy saved mine. They’re not always savable, but it’s worth a try. It took two years of intensive therapy before we figured out how to make our marriage work and thrive with this new unexpected development called autism.

These are some of  the tricks I have been using to take care of myself. My health is slowly turning around, and my marriage is thriving. Here’s to creating a beautiful life even with the challenges of autism!

Cyndi Kershner is the mother of a thirteen year old recovering from autism. She is a yoga teacher and therapist. She lives in Bothell, WA on a beautiful farm with her partner of eighteen years.


Sydney Passovoy

You can't recover from Autism it will always be there.
I am 18 with autism
and my grandmother is known in Virginia for teaching parents with special needs and she goes to all different schools in the state to teach teachers and the school boards about autism


Wow - big wake up call for me! I've been doing 16+ hour days going 2 years strong now, and I feel like I'm 50 (only really 37). I, too, have that fear that I CAN'T die. I don't do your #1, 2 & 3 at all. Finances are OK, I have interests outside of ASD, but I definitely don't eat well or get out for myself once a week. I did just this week hire a college student to come over twice a week for a few hours so I can have time to myself. My first day was on Wednesday - I just went to Barnes & Noble and read books, and it was awesome! I couldn't believe how much better of a mood I had all day. Thank you for this wake up call!


My house is a mess partly because I am unorganized and a bit aspie, and I have a job & 3 kids & a husband who's a pretty traditional guy, and also because I usually take the time to go to my jazz dance class two times a week and go walking for an hour once a week. My life is pretty much a big ball of stress, but when I don't make the time for exercise the stress builds up much more, plus I feel about 20 years older. I love my jazz dance class because it combines everything -- stretching, strengthening, toning, and an aerobic workout. If I had more time I would love to try all sorts of different kinds of exercise -- running, yoga, Tai Chi, weightlifting... maybe in my next life. It is really hard to get into exercise at first if you are not used to it, but if you find something you like and stick with it, it starts to feel soooo good! It makes your stress melt away. (And, unlike for example wine, you feel better the next day instead of hungover!) Like the rest of you, I am split between family, work, self, etc., and there is never enough of me to go around. Thank you for the reminder that it is o.k. (and necessary!) to spend some time doing whatever rejuvenates us.


Cyndi -- thanks for the important reminders. A few months ago, after 2 years of complete neglect, I restarted an exercise program, and I feel much better - so much more energy! My escape is running to the nail shop for a mani or pedi (with a stop for a venti triple shot -- I'm with Kim, I MUST have caffeine)! Care takers need to take care of themselves too.

Cathy Jameson

Loved this! Thanks for the very good reminder for us parents to take care of ourselves. I stress out so much and don't take time for me.

Days that I remember that I exist not just in the autism world, I head over to Dairy Queen for a blizzard. That cheers me right up and gives me enough energy to get back into the trenches for whatever gets thrown my way.



Cindi - Thank you so much for these very important reminders. I "KNOW" all that you wrote about but needed a good slap upside the head to get going on putting these in practice. And as coincidence will have it, I just started exercising again myself... (and my tolerance for the daily B.. S.. is much higher on the days that I exercise.. anybody want a helping of endorphins???)

I am COMPLETELY with Kim S on the coffee though. I guess my Higher Power is that 5 - 10 minute escape a few times a day to Starbucks... LOL

Kelli Ann Davis


You made me bust out laughing on this one:

"Recruit anyone who is not an axe-murderer and will take your children, one night a week."

And *freaked me out* on this one:

"Go for a really long drive and get a cheeseburger."

Oh my gosh! I am serious. I was going to do this *exact thing* yesterday -- take a drive to Potomac Mills Shopping area (about 25 miles away from downtown DC) and use my Red Robin card (it's a great restaurant that specializes in hamburgers!!!). And then actually break down and try and buy a *bikini* (Kim motivated me -- along with Pool Boy ;-)

Here's my favorite thing to do lately and I'm sharing my secret with you all but just remember, if you get caught you didn't hear it from me:

I walk around the corner from my Georgetown house to a bakery (literally 20 seconds from my front door) grab a freshly baked dinner roll, have them slice it in two and I stick it in a large ziplock bag along with my sliced cheese.

I walk three more blocks to the local wine store, buy a mini bottle of wine, (the owner opens it for me and puts the cork back in) and I stick that in my purse along with the ziplock bag.

I walk another two blocks down to Washington Harbor where the movie theater is located. I buy my ticket for an afternoon movie, proceed to the very back of the theater, take out my wine glass and viola' -- instant relaxation.

And yes, I know what you're all thinking, and yes, my purse is monster size!

So, let the record show (for all the guys) that *none of this could take place* without thee ever-scorned-I'm-not-touching-that-with-a-ten-foot-pole woman's purse!


Cyndi, when you sent me this post I was hesitant to run it. NO WHERE do you encourage drinking six cups of Starbucks' strongest, boldest brew. Now really, do you expect me to survive without my caffeine? LOL! Thanks for the reminder we all need. We're fortunate that using biomed has so helped behaviors and sleep that we can have babysitters with relative ease. It's so important to me that Mark and I remain husband and wife as well as parents. Even two hours at a local restaurant, "dolled up" in something pretty and wearing heels can recharge my batteries for what our days hold. A large cocktail helps too. But please, add the Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts or Peets or Caribou coffee. I beg you.




Cyndi - thanks for this important reminder. I have often thought (and I'm sure I'm not alone in this) - I CAN'T DIE. My kids, the therapies, supps, research - I just am not permitted it die. Then I do nothing to back up that statement. I have just started exercising again after years of neglect. It is incredibly hard to find the time and even more things don't get done b/c of this new exercise routine. But you know what - the stress relief the exercise brings helps put that all in perspective. I yell a lot less when I exercise. And I'm doing something to perhaps help me not die sooner... and that, my friends, is my end goal. Because if my son recovers I want to be around to enjoy it and if he doesn't - I want to be around to protect him.

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