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Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Shared Parenting of Autistic Child
Is it wrong for a parent of an autistic child to want shared parenting visitation for every other week (seven days with me, seven days with other parent)? Is this too hard on the child?
Divorce is never easy for anyone, particularly when children are involved. Add an autistic child to the mix and it makes it even harder for everyone involved. When considering what would be best for the child involved, one has to take into consideration several factors. These factors are the age of the child, the severity of autism and the child's ability to function, is the child verbal or nonverbal, and who was the primary caretaker of the child prior to the divorce?
After taking these factors into consideration, it would be very difficult for an autistic child to live one week at one parent's house and another week at another parent's home. The change in routine is frankly just too hard on the child. What you will end up finding is that the child's behavior will worsen and it will end up not being a pleasant experience for anyone.
Probably the best scenario in this situation would be to arrange for day trips to the other parent's home as much as possible, therefore easing the child into a different environment. It may be possible to then have the child stay overnight, starting with one night at a time. I don't think that I would try to push it longer than a weekend, especially when school is in session. Possibly vacations could be another story with more extended time.
As much as it would be nice to have the child stay one week here, one week there, it's not always the optimal situation for the child, and that's who really needs to be placed first and foremost in this situation.
Best of luck. Situations like yours always take time, but if you are patient and understanding, things will work out so that everyone can benefit.
It is very understandable for both parents to want shared parenting after they separate. As you know, children with autism require as much structure with their daily routine. It is important to identify who is the primary caretaker of the child. In other words, who does the child spend most of their time with in terms of getting dressed, bathing, eating, taking the child to school etc... Having said this, it does NOT mean that the other parent is NOT an important person in the child's life. Therefore, if the child is spending most of the time at one parent's house, the other parent can still be involved having the child over for weekend visits or for vacations. A set routine can be established by starting with short periods of time when the child visits. Increasing the time spent each visit will help the child to adjust much easier. The goal will be to work up to overnight visits and that may take awhile. If your child gets agitated and wants to go
Susan Thompson, MSN, CPNP
Research Nurse Practitioner
OSU Nisonger Center
The Ohio State University