How to be a Better Partner in an Autism Family

February 3, 2020

As a parent of a child with autism, it’s natural to want to devote as much time as possible to caring for your child’s needs. Autism parents are super parents. We see examples of this in the work that we do with parents every day. But even the best parents usually forget one thing. There’s more to family relationships than the one you have with your child. You also need to spend time focusing on the relationship with your partner. 

Jordan Brown

AnswersNow team

As a parent of a child with autism, it’s natural to want to devote as much time as possible to caring for your child’s needs. Autism parents are super parents. We see examples of this in the work that we do with parents every day. But even the best parents usually forget one thing. There’s more to family relationships than the one you have with your child. You also need to spend time focusing on the relationship with your partner. 


Whether you’re the Batman or Robin in your relationship, we all need love to be the best we can be. 

So conjure up the happiest image of your better half that you can, and take a few minutes to learn four easy ways you can be a better partner in your wonderful autism family.


1. Understand That Each Caregiver Handles Stress Differently

The way you handle stress might not be the way that your partner handles stress. 

And let’s face it, parenting a child with special needs can be very stressful. There’s no one right way to handle stress, so do your best not to judge how your partner responds to stressful situations.

Instead, be curious. Ask questions, like:

   - How do you feel when you are stressed? What kinds of signs should I look out for?        

   - What do you need from me when you are feeling stressed?

   - What kinds of situations cause the most stress for you? 

Adopting a curious stance breaks the ice and lets your partner know that you’re there to help, not to criticize how they respond to stress.


We’re sure you’ve picked up some magical soothing skills as a parent. Don’t be afraid to use them with your significant other!

2. Leave Little Notes for Your Partner to Find

You might love this. Or maybe this will make you gag. Hear us out first. 

Remember passing notes as a child? As silly as it now might seem, there was something exciting about sharing a secret note with someone you liked.

Ladies and gentlemen, try bringing back the notes. The next time you have a moment to yourself, grab a post-it note or a small piece of paper--and write a note to your partner. It can be silly. It can be sweet. Just make sure it comes from the heart.

Then, when you’re done, place it somewhere you know your partner will find it. The more surprising the better. There’s nothing like getting an old-fashioned secret note when you least expect it.

3. Whatever it Takes, Find Time for Just the Two of You

As a parent, it can be tough to find time for just you and your partner. You know this. But it’s important. It’s especially important when you are caring for a child with autism. 

Some days are harder than others, and you need to make sure your foundation is strong as a couple so that you have someone to lean on.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Pick one night per month that you do something as a couple. Write it on your calendar. Pinky swear by it. You had a life before being parents, and you deserve to have at least one night to yourself each month.
  2. Carve out a few minutes each day to check in with each other (see our final tip for an idea).
  3. Lean on friends and family once a month. Not everyone likes to ask for help, but there are likely people in your life who will help you create some getaway time each month. Explain that you’re doing your best to find balance in your lives. 
  4. Just can’t find any time in your schedule for you and your partner? How about a daily check-in call? Spend ten minutes to tune out the world and have a calming phone call with your partner.

4. End Your Days with A Gratitude Ritual (Or Any Ritual)

Last but not least, try to end your days in a positive way. Remember example two from our last tip, carving out time for a face-to-face check-in with your partner? Here’s one way to do it.

Create an evening gratitude ritual. Before you head to bed, take five or ten minutes with your partner to talk through three things that you each are grateful for. They can be anything. You can be grateful for a thriving potted plant if that’s what brings you joy.

What’s important is that you do it. Taking time for yourselves to end your day in a positive way will create a habit that you look forward to--and it will help you connect with your partner in a deeper way.

You’re already a hardworking parent, and you should be proud of that. 

But your significant other is your original partner in crime. They need love too, love that only you can provide.

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