How to Stay Sane

Sometimes I stand before people and I say stuff and then they ask me questions.

How do you keep you marriage together with the stress of raising a child with autism?

How can I get my son to stop biting/hitting/screaming/chewing/running?

How is it you are so stunningly beautiful and well-dressed?

Actually, I’ve never been asked that last question. I admit this to you in the spirit of full disclosure.

When my son Jack was a little guy, throwing enormous fits and staying up all night and generally wreaking havoc on my previously well-planned life, I wished I knew someone who had an older child with autism—someone who had been through the fire and came out the other side.


I am now that person! I am the old mom of autism, with a child on the spectrum at the ripe old age of fifteen.

And in the spirit of disclosure and my oldness, I’d like offer you a few ideas I’ve discovered along the way.

Three, to be exact.

I mean, I’m sure there are many more, but research show the human mind works best in units of three, which explains why five kids is too many kids.

I can barely keep track of their names half the time.

It may surprise you to learn that not one of these bullet points have anything to do with autism. Nothing! Nada!

And that, my tender reader, is the point.

  1. Find something to do.

    I know what you are thinking right this very minute! You are thinking you already have plenty to do.

    Horse therapy, feeding therapy, art therapy, behavioral therapy.

    Then there’s all the research and articles and books and online groups.

    Meetings with teachers, meetings with doctors, meetings about meetings.

    I am not talking about that stuff.

    Read a book, take up knitting, learn how to make the perfect soufflé.

    Kiss your husband or your wife, try cross-country skiing, meet a friend for dinner and laugh until you almost slide off your seat.

    In other words, do not let autism become your hobby.

    It is not good for you, and it is not good for your child. It is especially not good for your marriage.

    Remember, you were a person before autism became a party of your world, and you have a responsibility to continue to grow and reach and learn yourself.

  2. Move your body.

    Walk the dog, dance in your kitchen, take a yoga class, lift weights, run on the treadmill, go to Zumba.

    Move out of your thinking brain, and into your body.

    I know, I know—childcare, logistics, the ABA therapy, the appointments. There is always an obstacle to self-care.

    But nothing—and I do mean nothing—erases the stress of an IEP meeting or a rough morning at the bus stop than a few minutes of sweat.

  3. Stay in your lane.

    This also includes, but is not limited to, a handy little mantra I like to call Let Other People Do Their Job.

    In other words, don’t be all up in the teacher’s grill.

    That sounded so gangster, didn’t it? I’ve waited my whole life to use that line and I think I finally found the perfect opportunity.

    Don’t be all up in the teacher’s grill.

    But, seriously, I mean it. Let the teacher, the para, the occupational therapist, the speech pathologist, the librarian, the person who serves hot lunch, the playground monitor, and the principal do their jobs.

    Their job is not to make you feel better that your child has autism or to hold your hand or to promise you that your kid will get the very newest IPad in the whole school. They have a whole bunch of kids exactly like yours and also exactly not like yours and they need to teach each one.

    Their job is to grow his world. It’s to introduce him to concepts and learning skills and sliced pears in a plastic cup. It’s their job to make him wait in line for the slide. Stand back, and let them do it.

    Your job is to be his mother.

    Be his mother. Trust me, at times that will be hard enough. It will be so hard you won’t believe it. It will be so hard that some days you’ll want to open the door and walk right down the driveway and never come back.

    But in the middle of the hardness, please. Do all of the things I didn’t do.

    Cup his soft head and feel the way his damp hair curls after his bath.

    Hold his squishy cheeks in your hands and gently tilt his beautiful face towards yours. For one moment, don’t worry about eye contact, or the next therapy appointment, or if you should stop using Windex because you read somewhere that cleaning products cause autism.

    Simply take in the curve of his face—the way his eyelashes sweep and his mouth looks like a butterfly when he smiles.

    Sit with him. Take five minutes and sit with him on the floor and watch what he watches. See what he sees.

    Enjoy him.

P.S. When it comes to autism, there is no other side. There is simply a new way of being.

The good news is you will learn to withstand the fire, while your heart mends and breaks and mends yet again.

You are not alone.

Written by, Carrie Cariello

Carrie Cariello is the author of What Color Is Monday, How Autism Changed One Family for the Better, and Someone I’m With Has Autism. She lives in Southern New Hampshire with her husband, Joe, and their five children. 

Carrie is a contributor to the Huffington Post, TODAY Parents, the TODAY Show, She has been interviewed by NBC Nightly News, and also has a TEDx talk.

She speaks regularly about autism, marriage, and motherhood, and writes a weekly blog at One of her essays, “I Know What Causes Autism,” was featured as one of the Huffington Post’s best of 2015, and her piece, “I Know Why He Has Autism,” was named one of the top blog posts of 2017 by the TODAY Show.

Carrie will be guest posting every Thursday on Finding Cooper’s Voice so check back!

Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook, subscribe for exclusive videos, and subscribe to our newsletter.

Prev post: He Never Gave Up On MeNext post: How We Show Love In Our House

Related posts

Join Coop’s Troop
Join Coop’s Troop

Become a Supporter of Finding Cooper's Voice and join our online community, Coop's Troop. Membership includes Facebook Lives with our family, giveaways and more.

About Me
About Me

Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!


Sign up for Finding Cooper's Voice
* = required field

powered by MailChimp!
Most Popular