More than 1 in 100 people are on the autism spectrum, and there are currently around 700,000 autistic adults and children living in the UK (according to autism.org.uk).
Divorce or separation can have a significant impact on children, and how it affects each child will vary depending on a range of factors. These include their age, personality, and the extent to which the separation will change their everyday life and routines.
When parents of an autistic child separate, there may be additional factors to consider. Autistic children often benefit hugely from a clear routine, and may have increased anxiety around change, both of which can be a challenge when parents are separating.
Here are some ways parents can help an autistic child cope when going through a separation:
- Every child is different, and you know them best. Think carefully about how the separation is going to change their everyday life and what’s likely to upset them the most. Then you can make a plan to limit the effect of these changes wherever possible.
- It is always essential to consider the potential harm suffered by children as a result of ongoing conflict between parents, but even more so with children who are on the autism spectrum. If possible, work together with your partner to reduce the level of conflict your child is exposed to.
- Ensure you have an idea of the ‘next steps’ before telling your child about the separation. They are likely to have particular worries and may have questions about what this means for their future, so being in a position to provide reassurance and clarity is crucial.
- As much as possible, keep their routine as normal as you can. If it’s possible for one parent to remain living in the family home, rather than it being sold, then this option should be considered.
- Reiterate to your child that you are both still their parents – your relationship might be ending, but you will still always be a family.
- Ensure that you have a clear plan for how much time your child is going to spend with each of you. Once the routine is in place, it should be followed wherever possible. Create visual calendars so that your child can easily see which home they are going to be at set times.
- You may want to create a similar bedroom in each of your homes for your child, so they feel comfortable and at home in both. If needed, double up on school uniform, favourite toys, books etc. so that your child always has the items that are important to them and their routine to hand.
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We are dedicated to resolving parenting disputes as amicably as possible. Every solicitor in our family team are members of Resolution which means we have a duty to reduce conflict wherever possible, and put any children involved first.