Sunday, August 8, 2010

Autism-Related Risk of Divorce Exaggerated?

While no one would question the fact that raising a child with a disability presents additional challenges to parents, allegations that parents with a child with autism are much more likely to get divorced may not be accurate. Studies have claimed that raising a child with autism significantly increases the rate of divorce, but a new study reported on WebMD says 75 percent of parents of children with autism remain married.

If you consider that about half of all marriages end in divorce, could it be that parents actually stay together at a higher rate when dealing with autism? Interestingly, as many as 66 percent of divorces involve couples who do not have children at all. You could speculate that not having children leads to loneliness (as one study claimed) or that the lack of responsibility makes it easier to break up.

Instead of examining statistics, I think more work should be put into helping couples improve their relationships -- both for the good of their marriage and their child. Dr. Robert Naseef of gave a presentation just last week on "Living with Autism in the Family: Taking Care of Everyone's Needs." Dr. Naseef debunked the myth of the high divorce rate, saying, "Citing autism as the reason for a marriage failing can be seen as yet another reasons for saying why autism is awful. Exaggerating the negative does not help us." And he offered the following tips:

For men:
- Learn to listen without trying to fix.
- Tell her what she is doing well.
- Do something to give her a break.
- Find romance in everyday life.

For women:
- Tell him to just listen -- that's all you need.
- Tell him what he is doing well.
- Tell him what he can do for you.
- Find romance in everyday life.

Do you have other tips, or sources of useful information?
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