By Cathrine Tuck
MDLIVE Content Manager
My eight-year-old son is autistic. Like any other parent, my life is a complicated mix of stress, frustration, anxiety, guilt and unadulterated joy. But my parenting journey can be lonely, with challenges few others understand. I can’t get through it without counseling. Full disclosure: because I work for MDLIVE, my employer provides MDLIVE Behavioral Health to my family for free. That’s reason enough to use it. But using MDLIVE also spares my family the emotional costs of a trip to the therapist.
45 minutes of therapy minus two hours of drive time
I work remotely from a top-ten worst traffic city. Ten miles round trip can easily take two hours. With MDLIVE Behavioral Health, I can talk to my counselor right from my laptop or phone and then get back to work. Buh-bye, road rage and missed deadlines. Hello, full gas tank (literally and figuratively).
No disruption to my autistic child’s routine
My daughter can go with the flow when the routine changes. My son is very high-functioning, but he needs structure like he needs air. Surprises that aren’t chocolate or toys never end well. New or rescheduled appointments can bring hours of inconsolable wailing, head-slapping and sobbing. Why risk the relative calm of our carefully curated routine when I can just grab my phone and talk to my MDLIVE counselor while my kids are at school? (Sorry, devil, my dance card is full).
No need to find (or fear) babysitting
We have no family nearby, and both the adults work full-time. So finding childcare during office hours is tough. My son is also more unpredictable when he’s not with us, and he has a tendency to wander off (sometimes into the street). Leaving my kids with friends or babysitters who can manage my son’s behaviors while I’m with a therapist can be tricky and expensive at best, and terrifying at worst. As I mentioned, my family receives MDLIVE services for free because I’m an MDLIVE employee. But if we had to pay full price for MDLIVE Behavioral Health, the cost would be about the same as three hours of babysitting. What we would save in time and panic attacks would still a big win.
Stuff and relationships don’t get broken
My son gets hyperactive in waiting rooms, which means jumping, running and arm flailing. Pretty flowerpots and vases are near-certain casualties. This leads to shame and tears when we have to apologize for these things getting broken in a waiting room. When I video chat with my MDLIVE counselor, nothing of hers gets broken (and scheduling another appointment isn’t awkward).
No tears, frustration or feelings of failure
I’m not just talking about my son. We’ve all learned a lot of tricks for managing my son’s behavior, especially in unfamiliar situations. But we never know when he’ll surprise us. That can be especially hard for my daughter. When we need to focus on grown-up interactions, we sometimes need lean heavily on her to help supervise and calm her brother. It’s a lot of responsibility for an 11 year-old. She bears it cheerfully, and sometimes she’s better at it than the adults. But when things happen on her watch, she blames herself, no matter how much we tell her it’s not her fault. No child should ever feel like she’s failed her entire family because she couldn’t predict or control her brother’s behavior in a waiting room. Talking to my MDLIVE counselor never sets my daughter up to fail.
Having a child like my son is a uniquely rewarding experience that no one in my family would trade for anything. But it’s no walk in the park. If you need help managing the challenges of raising an autistic child, MDLIVE Behavioral Health can help you get what you need – and prevent a lot of things you don’t need. Grab your phone or laptop and schedule an appointment right now.