I Love My Autistic Daughter, But Living My Life to Accommodate Her is Burning Me Out

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a homemaker in my 40s and have a daughter in first grade in elementary school who is on the spectrum. She also has auditory sensitivity and is not good in groups.

I look after her most of the time. However, dealing with her reluctance to go to school, teaching her every unspoken rule in society and supporting her on disability-related issues has worn me out.

My daughter does not want to go to school, so I send her to classes for special needs students for two hours a day.

When she’s interested in something, such as making crafts, she fully dedicates herself to it. She’s also very active when she’s at home doing what she likes or playing outside. On days off, we will spend quality time together, such as going to events organized by local governments as a family or hanging out with her friends’ families. I also use medical and social services, consulting with them and doing everything I can to ease my daughter’s struggles.

My daughter does not worry about things she’s not good at and is not hard on herself. However, I feel myself growing exhausted from living my life to accommodate my daughter. Please give me some advice.

— T, Osaka Prefecture

Dear Ms. T:

I can see that you are doing everything you can to support your daughter, who is on the spectrum. You know what your daughter doesn’t like — such as loud noises and group activities — and still find ways to have her attend classes for students with special needs for two hours a day. This all must be incredibly difficult.

I think it’s amazing that you not only manage her difficulties but also develop her strengths by helping her find hobbies she can immerse herself in, taking her outside to play, participating in events and having her hang out with her friends’ families.

The reason your daughter is so lively and isn’t hard on herself is probably that she can sense your love and care.

However, if you always put your daughter first, you will burn yourself out — both physically and mentally. As a result, you will not be able to give her as much support as you would like. To prevent this from occurring, make sure you set aside some time, either by yourself or with your husband, to relax and have fun. With enough rest, you will have the energy to fully support your daughter without exhausting yourself.

It is also helpful to be around other families who are in similar situations and share ideas.

— Yutaka Ono, psychiatrist