dealing with denial sometimes divorce…

because of autism/special needs.

Dealing with denial is a phase that everyone and every family will experience and decide to work through or not.  When you have a child with special needs there are definitely phases that you experience in finding  your path to advocating for your child.  In most cases, one parent will work through the emotions and process of coping with a diagnosis faster.  Then, the other parent has to realize the situation and begin to work through the same process.  Then there are other family members and friends with the “I’m so sorry” comments that will probably never get it.

dealing with denial

Not every family is able to deal with a diagnosis of a special need child.  In our home, it was autism.  I was aware of a situation that was in some way linked to spectrum behavior.  I thought first (SPD)  Sensory Processing Disorder.  I looked up the list of common symptoms or behaviors and my child had every one.  So, I was the first in my family to realize and accept that our child was different and delayed.  I knew that help was needed and more information about what our child was dealing with was going to be key.   I wrote about the journey feeling alone.   (Feeling alone? Read this previous post)

Many families are never able to deal with a diagnosis and it causes major relationship stress and in many cases can end a relationship.  This article link from Psychology Today is a great read on the topic!

Do Couples Divorce Because of Autism?


“While 78% of respondents said they divorced after their child was diagnosed, and overwhelmingly 76% of the respondents said that autism was not the primary cause of their divorce. Although the majority of respondents did not consider autism a main cause of divorce, 50% did consider autism to be a contributing factor for the divorce.”

Overall, the main idea from the Psychology Today article was stress on family relationships.  When autism diagnosis was added to a family, it caused stressed which according to 50% of represents was a contributing factor for divorce.  When I reflect on the stress when dealing with diagnosis and acceptance, it was very challenging.  I have talked to many parents that have been divorced because together they cannot find a common ground or the disagreements became too stressful.  My family has grown stronger with challenges;  we have moved forward, grown and accepted everyone’s role in the family.  It wasn’t easy and as a therapist previously taught me “it will get harder before it gets easier.”

A few tips from experience and reading:

  • allow one person to take the lead
  • listen and support the lead person
  • if you are taking the lead, try to find a way to explain without putting the other person’s ideas down
  • read
  • find fun activities to do as a family
  • learn to love what is “special” about your child with autism
  • find ways to de-stress
  • make alone time
  • laugh and smile
  • don’t expect anyone to change, just love them for who they are now


I hope that you can find your way through the journey of denial and/or divorce to find a place of love and acceptance!


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