Autism and Reducing Stress: Caring for the Carer

April 5, 2016 Published by

Parenting can be stressful at the best of times, but when you have a child with autism, or any special educational need and disability that requires extra care, it can be all the more exhausting. But there’s no reason to hold your hands up and quit, or resign yourself to a lifetime of being stressed and tired. Even small changes in your everyday life can have an effect, as Dr Shivani Sharma explains:

Reduce Stress Levels by Shopping Somewhere New

When it comes to raising a young child with autism, a lot of the research has focused on the parenting role and in particular, the unique challenges that come with it. In our research, we considered how we can help to alleviate the strain on carers, specifically using methods that might be suited to busy mothers who often have less time on their hands. 

Daily uplifts 

Rather than focusing on child behaviour, which is commonly cited by parents as a key stressor, we based our approach around providing daily uplifts. We asked mothers to try a small task each day for a month. Some examples included listening to a different radio station, shopping somewhere new and taking a long bath if they didn't usually do so.

We found that making these daily adjustments had a positive effect on maternal stress levels compared to those mothers who did not engage in these types of activities.

We also asked mothers about their experience of these daily uplift activities. They mentioned that it was nice to have something different and achievable to look forward to and that it was a constant reminder to take time for themselves. Mothers also commented that changing their habits made them feel much better and more in control of their emotions.

 This is a perfect example that while parenting necessitates care and attention towards children, it is also important for parents to take time to look after themselves.


As a parent, if you are tired, stressed and stretched to your limit, you are not in the best position to raise happy children. This can lead to feelings of failure and guilt among other health problems. Remember, children learn best by copying, so seeing their parents happy, confident and relaxed is great for them, as well as you!

Now I’m off to have an extra-long bath.




Dr Shivani Sharma is a psychologist based at the University of Hertfordshire. As part of her doctoral research, she has explored strategies to help reduce the experience of parenting stress in mothers of children with autism.




Photo Credit: Window Shopping by Antoine K licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0


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This post was written by Anna Taylor

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