I came across two similar, interesting articles last night and I wanted to take a little time to share my thoughts on it. The first was, Families Affected by Autism Have Fewer Children. The second was very similar: Autism Families Tend to Have Fewer Children Than Their Peers.
We are an autism family. My son was diagnosed with autism at age two, and for us it was not a shock. He had had problems since birth and we knew that autism was probably what we were looking at. Autism, Sensory Processing, and a Pediatric Feeding Disorder were the diagnoses, later followed by Apraxia of Speech.
It was at this point that we felt we were in way over our heads. My son was in so many therapies per week including, Occupational Therapy, Feeding Therapy, Speech Therapy, and ABA therapy. My husband and I both were overwhelmed at the thought of having another child. Would we be able to give another child the same attention, when so much of our time was taken up with therapies and doctor’s visits.
Indicators of autism spectrum disorders like motor and communication deficits often manifest around age two, which is when families of children with autism elect to have no more children.”
While we did not make a direct decision not to have any more kids, we both felt that we were not ready at this point. We weren’t sure if we would ever have more, but we also knew we had plenty of time to decide.
However, when the researchers took stoppage into account, the siblings are at a tenfold increase in autism risk and the maternal half-siblings have a nearly fivefold increase.”
The study did not ask the parents of affected children why they chose to stop having children. The researchers speculate that it may be because the parents were concerned about their ability to care for another child, especially if the new child also turned out to have autism.”
For us, the statistics in the above quotes played a big factor in whether or not we would have more kids. Would we be able to financially care for another special needs child? Would we be able to handle the stress of another special needs child? We were just not sure.
Finally, a year and half after my son’s official diagnosis, we started seeing a lot of improvement. We understood more about the life of an autism family and we realized we were ready to have one more child. We were concerned and knew that the possibility of having another autistic child was high, but we also knew that if that was the case, we were now prepared and comfortable to take on whatever God had in store for us.
Fast-forward to almost a year later. We had our little Elizabeth, but quickly learned that she had issues of her own. After learning how to care for a child with a g-tube, and spending time in three different hospitals, we have realized that we were meant to care for these two special needs children. That God knew that we would be the ones to give them their best chance at life, the care that they need, and all the love that we have.
Will we have more kids? No, we are done. We made that decision permanent when I had my c-section. Does that mean that we don’t believe that children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3)? No, of course not! We just decided that caring for two special needs children was our limit. That in order to give our kids everything they need – our most loving attention and care, that they would be the only siblings in the family.
I get asked a lot, Will you have more kids? And I have also received the audible, Gasp! Why not? answer as well. But my response is similar to the end remark in one of the articles above:
Permanente finds that parents of a child with autism are less likely to have more children, compared with families with no autistic children. The results may suggest the need for greater society-wide support for families affected by autism.”
I say that with numbers like every 1 in 68 children being identified autism, that the call for support has never been greater. Do you advocate for bigger families? Maybe the advocating needs to start with the special needs families. With the autism families. Maybe someday there will be more support for families like us, and more special children to parents who will also show amazing and unrelenting love, support, and care.
Will you be one of the ones to accept the call for greater support? Will you help me in spreading awareness? I know my family and many other families will thank you.