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On Autism Families and Having Fewer Kids

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I came across two similar, interesting articles last night and I wanted to take a little time to share my thoughts on it. The first was, Families Affected by Autism Have Fewer Children. The second was very similar: Autism Families Tend to Have Fewer Children Than Their Peers.

We are an autism family. My son was diagnosed with autism at age two, and for us it was not a shock. He had had problems since birth and we knew that autism was probably what we were looking at. Autism, Sensory Processing, and a Pediatric Feeding Disorder were the diagnoses, later followed by Apraxia of Speech.

Autism Families

It was at this point that we felt we were in way over our heads. My son was in so many therapies per week including, Occupational Therapy, Feeding Therapy, Speech Therapy, and ABA therapy. My husband and I both were overwhelmed at the thought of having another child. Would we be able to give another child the same attention, when so much of our time was taken up with therapies and doctor’s visits.

Indicators of autism spectrum disorders like motor and communication deficits often manifest around age two, which is when families of children with autism elect to have no more children.”

While we did not make a direct decision not to have any more kids, we both felt that we were not ready at this point. We weren’t sure if we would ever have more, but we also knew we had plenty of time to decide.

However, when the researchers took stoppage into account, the siblings are at a tenfold increase in autism risk and the maternal half-siblings have a nearly fivefold increase.” 

The study did not ask the parents of affected children why they chose to stop having children. The researchers speculate that it may be because the parents were concerned about their ability to care for another child, especially if the new child also turned out to have autism.”

For us, the statistics in the above quotes played a big factor in whether or not we would have more kids. Would we be able to financially care for another special needs child? Would we be able to handle the stress of another special needs child? We were just not sure.

Finally, a year and half after my son’s official diagnosis, we started seeing a lot of improvement. We understood more about the life of an autism family and we realized we were ready to have one more child. We were concerned and knew that the possibility of having another autistic child was high, but we also knew that if that was the case, we were now prepared and comfortable to take on whatever God had in store for us.

Fast-forward to almost a year later. We had our little Elizabeth, but quickly learned that she had issues of her own. After learning how to care for a child with a g-tube, and spending time in three different hospitals, we have realized that we were meant to care for these two special needs children. That God knew that we would be the ones to give them their best chance at life, the care that they need, and all the love that we have.

Will we have more kids? No, we are done. We made that decision permanent when I had my c-section. Does that mean that we don’t believe that children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3)? No, of course not! We just decided that caring for two special needs children was our limit. That in order to give our kids everything they need – our most loving attention and care, that they would be the only siblings in the family.

I get asked a lot, Will you have more kids? And I have also received the audible, Gasp! Why not? answer as well. But my response is similar to the end remark in one of the articles above:

Permanente finds that parents of a child with autism are less likely to have more children, compared with families with no autistic children. The results may suggest the need for greater society-wide support for families affected by autism.” 

I say that with numbers like every 1 in 68 children being identified autism, that the call for support has never been greater. Do you advocate for bigger families? Maybe the advocating needs to start with the special needs families. With the autism families. Maybe someday there will be more support for families like us, and more special children to parents who will also show amazing and unrelenting love, support, and care.

Will you be one of the ones to accept the call for greater support? Will you help me in spreading awareness? I know my family and many other families will thank you.

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  1. Such a great topic to bring to light. Thanks for the food for thought, girl. You are an amazing mom, and your two sweethearts are so lucky to have your full love and attention!

  2. As his diagnosis did not come until he was 7, our decision not to have any more children was not directly driven by our son’s Autism. However, I think the challenge of raising this amazing and wonderful child had a subconscious influence and he is now the only one we will have.

    Great post! Thank you!

  3. I really appreciate your blog post as it comes from the heart. We have two babies, back to back, and although they haven’t shown signs of autism, my husband is on the autism spectrum. I find it really odd when I tell people that we are done having children and they are incredulous. In this day and age, is it that fantastically ridiculous that we can decide when to stop having children? I find this to be so weird. But anyways… kudos! Please keep sharing.

  4. We are an Autism family – caring for a 4 year old on the Spectrum and a new baby has been a big challenge. And although I would like a larger family, two kids may be all we can handle. Having a strong religious background and being around many people with large families, it’s hard to admit that we may be done after only 2 children. I appreciate your willingness to share your experience in this area and hope you continue blogging about the ups and downs of life caring for children with special needs.

    1. Hi Anna,
      Your situation sounds so similar to ours. My 4 year old little boy has autism, and we now have a 13 month little girl. It’s hard. It is hard to be around larger families, and for me even hearing about friend’s pregnancies. Thank you for your comment and I hope that you have peace no matter what you decide.

  5. Kathryn
    We have 3 with the youngest having autism. I was 34 when he was born so we thought t
    He would be our last (before we knew of his issues). We didn’t make our decision based on autism but I can imagine with a different birth order , this would be a big decision. I know if he hadn’t been the youngest, I couldn’t of invested the time I did into him . That investment has helped him grow in ways I doubt he would of otherwise. You were very brave to write on such a controversial subject . Blessings to you!

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