You know, I try to be a glass half full type of person when it comes to being the parent of children with autism. I have found it is best to look on the bright side and stay hopeful about the future while not dwelling on the unpleasantries that go along with autism. But I have also found it is equally important to acknowledge the realities of autism and to resist the urge to sugarcoat the situation. It is a fine but necessary line to walk if you want to keep your sanity in the face of autism.
But there is looking on the bright side while acknowledging reality and then there is this new paper that talks about the "benefits to the lived experiences of female primary caregivers of children with autism." In this paper, the authors interviewed 8 mothers who were primary caregivers for children with autism and concluded that "benefits were found in all areas of questioning, including financial, social, familial, health, and employment implications, in addition to benefits arising from activities and involvements taken on as a result of raising a child with autism"
I haven't read the full paper but the conclusion alone is so absurd as to be laughable.
Having a child with autism has financial benefits? Oh come on. Providing even the basic therapies for autism - behavioral, speech, and OT/PT - can be hugely expensive, especially if the costs are not picked up by insurance. That doesn't even begin to consider all of the other associated therapies that might be required or the lost wages from having one parent staying at home. And I won't even touch the prospect of having to provide life-long support for a child who might be unable to ever case for themselves.
I could go on as to why the other "benefits" are equally bad but I don't really see the point in depressing everybody. The bottom line is that having a child with autism can and often does imposes a heavy cost to the parents in all of the areas listed.
I can't imagine that the authors were able to support that conclusions without resorting to cherry picking through the question answers or engaging in some wishful thinking. And even if, by some miracle, they managed to find 8 mothers who did say that having a child with autism gave them all of these benefits, I doubt that their experiences would be representative of mothers' experiences in general.
I have to wonder what the point of the current paper was since it flies in the face of most of the other available data. The last sentence in the conclusion seems to suggest the purpose is to help improve the lives of families effected by autism - "In this way, clinical nurse specialists may encourage and contribute to support systems that foster a positive experience for caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder, the children they care for, and their families"
But I can say, from my own experiences, the absolute last thing a family needs is a medical professional trying to blowing sunshine up your butt. It is hard enough to come to terms with what autism means and what impact it is going to have on your life without someone purposely distorting the picture. And until you manage to come to terms with and accept what autism means for your family, you are never going to be able to deal with it over the long term.
Don't get me wrong, raising a child - even a child with a disability such as autism - can be a very rewarding experience for a parent. But let's not pretend that autism doesn't come with a high price tag.
Markoulakis R, Fletcher P, Bryden P. Seeing the glass half full: benefits to the lived experiences of female primary caregivers of children with autism. Clin Nurse Spec. 2012 Jan;26(1):48-56. PubMed PMID: 22146274