Self Care for a Special Needs Parent

Dear Angel,

My daughter, Valerie, has autism spectrum disorder (formerly known as Asperger’s Syndrome, but now under the ASD umbrella). She is very bright, and for the most part is in an inclusive environment at school. However, when she gets home, she has panic attacks often, and needs constant attention. I spend all of my time thinking about her needs, and no time on myself, and the stress is taking a toll on my mental and physical health. Do you know of any suggestions for finding caregiving help/respite for a special needs parent? I don’t trust just anyone with my daughter, and really need some time to go for a run, read a good book, or just to unwind.

Thanks in advance,

Alla Boutval


Dear Alla,

Being a parent is stressful. And, as you know, being a special-needs parent can be challenging. Below are some resources for finding qualified caregivers and respite programs, so you can make time to care for yourself and relieve some stress!


•Start with your family, friends, neighbors, and your child’s classmates’ parents. Anyone of these might have a great connection that they never thought of until you asked.
•Ask for childcare recommendations from any of the online autism parent groups you belong to.
•Put a “childcare needed” notice in nearby religious institutions such as churches or synagogues, in your local library, and in colleges or universities with special education programs.
•Ask your child’s pediatrician, teachers, early intervention workers, and therapists for recommendations. See if the aides in your child’s class, or the assistants in your child’s toddler group, are allowed to babysit.
•Search online for special needs’ caretakers, and also look into nanny and child care referral agencies. Be sure to ask for references from other parents who have used their services.
•Contact your local chapter of the following groups that provide support and services to people with disabilities and their families:

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