Parents of children with autism have a lot on their plate, which is why advocates say they have to make sure they take care of themselves.

“Most parents would describe themselves as stressed but when you have a child with autism, the stress increases tenfold,” said Suzanne Buchanan, the executive director of Autism New Jersey. “It’s incredibly important for parents to take care of themselves because many times they are their child’s best and only advocate.”

Buchanan spoke on New Jersey 101.5's special autism town hall Wednesday night.


She said parents are sometimes responsible for their children's needs 24-7, "and that can be exhausting."

“It doesn’t have to be anything luxurious like vacations or anything," she said. “Even just reaching out to a friend or to another parent who may understand what you’re going through and just asking them if they would listen to you for 15 minutes.”

She said there are online and in-person support groups that parents can take advantage of, and information can be accessed by visiting Autism New Jersey’s website.

Rutgers psychology professor and autism expert Bob LaRue agrees parental support is critically important.

“I think in many cases, the larger the network the better because you can get experiences from lots of different people and potential resources that other families have accessed that become available to you when you have a large network," he said.

Buchanan said Autism New Jersey offers workshops on how to take care of yourself when your child has special needs.

“Some people want to call their best friend from childhood who just understands them to their core, and other people want to connect with parents of kids who are the same age as theirs.”

She said it’s highly recommended that parents put together a self-care plan so they can see how they’re doing as they move through different phases of their autistic child’s life.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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