Parenting and ASD ala “Parenthood”: Managing our own anxiety

Sep 7th, 2011 | By | Category: Autism Spectrum Perspective

Artwork by Jimmy Reagan (

There’s lots of buzz about the NBC show “Parenthood,” which will soon begin its third season. I’ve just tuned in so I’m playing catch up with the show with multiple sub-plots. I’ve learned that 8-year-old Max Braverman has quirky habits and a brilliant mind. I’ve also learned there is a familiar explanation for Max’s unusual behavior: he has Asperger’s syndrome (high functioning autism).

When he learns the diagnosis, Max’s dad, a genetically programmed problem solver, implores the doctor to tell them what to do next. How can I get him to stop wearing the pirate costume he insists on wearing every day, he pleads? When they learn about a special school for kids like Max, Adam and his wife, Kristina, beg the director to accept their son, for he’s no longer welcome at his old school.

Although they try to remain calm, the Bravermans are frantic and overwhelmed, oozing anxiety.

In real life, parents hear another weighty message after they get the diagnosis.  What we do next can impact – determine – our child’s development and prognosis. Suddenly, we feel the stress of our child’s future on our shoulders. So we become relentless advocates, cheerleaders, teachers, and often, our child’s only friends. Like Adam and Kristina, we’ll do virtually anything to vanquish the diagnosis; to help our kids to be accepted; to find just one real friend.

As our kids head back to school with new routines, expectations, classmates and teachers, it’s a good time to check our own anxiety, expectations and messaging. I found useful tips for dealing with what can be a difficult transition for families on the website of Fraser, Minnesota’s largest, highly experienced provider of autism services (  Suggestions include establishing schedules and routines for daily activities and talking to kids about how this school year will be different from the last.  But I found the most important message on the tip sheet to be about how we communicate with our kids as they work through this transition.

Speak positively about the day. Sensing that you are nervous makes children more concerned. Your confidence will ease fears.  Try to wait until you are back in your car before you show your own anxiety.”

Advice worth heeding, not just on the first day of school, but every day, especially when dealing with an anxiety-prone child.




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