Parents with children on the spectrum are not allowed to get sick or die

By Lisa Ackerman

I know, a pretty harsh title for a blog. But I wish I could write something as important as this and POOF make it a true statement.

You may be asking: what made me go to this topic? It is a simple answer – a story on TV is mirroring emails and calls we are getting at TACA all too frequently.  This story arc is from the TV show Parenthood that hits a cord: a mom of a child with autism gets breast cancer.


It begs the question: Do parents of children with autism get sick more than parents of typical children?  I’ve not seen a study on parents. But it does make me wonder “Do parents of sick kids get sick too?” They are chips off the block after all (1.)

Sadly, at TACA we receive many notices of parents getting sick. The scary diagnosis include: Cancer. Diabetes. Autoimmune issues. Heart attack. Depression. Sudden death.  Even more sadly, these instances are coming more frequently. They terrify me. We always have feared what happens to our special needs children when we die? My second question: does it have to be so soon?

I know first-hand raising a child on the spectrum is stressful. There is a study on that (2.) As parents, we have to be proactive, deal with stress and health issues before they make decisions for us.

My advice: head off sickness and disease at the pass. Families need to take make the investment of time to get healthy. That includes parents and their children and everyone in your family. Even the one with an autism diagnosis.

It’s not easy to start. I started with walking – I call those “the great explore!” I would get really excited and make a list of the items we need to find on the explore! Early on in the autism diagnosis we made it a game and it started with me being really excited about a walk and the fun we were going to have. (I know, lame!) But here is the funny outcome: it worked.

Other exercise & fun ways include family time start with the Wii or Xbox Connect game systems and moving games. Just move it together.  A great side bonus to exercise: it is a great stress release for everyone.

Over the past few years, I love that Jeff (now age 15) and I work out together. He is not excited about working out but he does it. We schedule it. He is happy when he is done – as am I. We run 5k, lift weights, and hills on the treadmill. We laugh and make it fun.  We make this a habit and our exercise giggles happen at least three time a week.

Here is a quick reminder: I am not a sporty, exercise person. I wasn’t a jock in high school. I made this a priority knowing it is important for my health and my family. This year I ran my first half marathon. We did it for TACA and many other TACA parents joined me. I didn’t think it was doable but it was. Read how we went from couch potato to running on this blog (3.)

Something to also consider for our kids is organized sports and activities. I know that team sports may be hard for kids on the spectrum. Parents can try karate or dance for their kids on the spectrum and you may be surprised. Ask a provider to arrange classes for families and get in there with your kids.

The most important step is to start by starting. To help your kids on the spectrum understand use visual schedules and rewards. There are websites that can help with exercise ideas and schedule examples (4). I know this it is easier to start earlier than to start later. If it’s already later don’t let that be the excuse. It is never too late to get healthy.

It’s fun being healthy. It sucks getting or being sick.  Taking care of yourself is a really important step and a smart investment.

Our kids need us. Remember: Don’t. Get. Sick.




1) Many children with autism also have other health issues:

2) Post traumatic stress disorders in parents of children living with autism:

3) Good health: couch potato to running:

4) Autism & Fitness:

7 thoughts on “Parents with children on the spectrum are not allowed to get sick or die

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  1. So true. Never having made the time before because I was in constant flight or fight mode and having had insomnia, you were crazy to think I would be able to find time to add that to the list. Now, 16 years later, I see and feel the importance. It is harder to bounce back when you are sick and it is taking me years to reverse the damage that was done for so long. I am doing it now and it is working though!

    This is where having a ‘buddy’ make you show up and you do the same for them. I LOVE that Jeff is now doing it with you and so love that you had made it fun as well.A reward!

    Keep up the great work Lisa and talking about what needs to be talked about.


  2. I agree. I used to run 5K a day with my daughter. She is 17 and we now do P90X every day – great for us both in so many ways…the joy lies in the attitude 🙂 Thanks for a great piece!

  3. You have been invited to join Autism Vampire Parents Klatch. We are a group of parents of autistic children who must never get sick or die to care for our children so we endeavor to become vampires. We are looking for volunteers, preferably English nobility but French royalty bloodlines will do. Single adults will also be accepted into the vampire Klatch. You may murder and drain the blood of as many neighbors as you see fit, but premarital sex is a sin and we are old fashion like Edward. Our official name is Autism Sucks. (Not to be confused with. . . ).

  4. In November 2008, my husband at age 39, had a heart attack. It has been my mission ever since to get my fellow autism parents into heart health. My 11 year old, with ASD, and his sister age 12 can and do regularly walk 2 to 5 miles with us. I encourage everyone to start with the heart health and a better life style sooner than later, because you never know when your health will go down hill!!

  5. Lisa, I understand this article all to well, our kids need us. Nobody takes better care of our special needs children then we do! We need to take care of ourselves. Something that help to head diabetes, cholesterol problems, circulation problems off is called Proargi9. This product helps to increase nitric oxide in the body. When this happens oxygen also increases and the flexibility of the arteries is increased. The whole cardiovascular system improves. This product was made by a doctor to help his patients to overcome health problems from diabetes, cardiovascular system problems. Let me know where to send the information to help you get informed.

  6. Awesome ideas!!! Thank you!!! My child did not get injured by vaccines to badly. The most we observe is some hyperactivity!! But I am a huge activist against vaccines in hopes I can help other parents prevent injuring their child through vaccines & adults as well. So I read all the articles and info & this info is useful to us personally and I believe we will use it. My daughter LOVES going on bike rides, so as often as we can we do that, it’s hard being in nursing school finding the time but I try to work in 30 min 3x a week to at least get something. Because of all the sitting studying in front of the computer & books I have put on weight…the westernized mid section, as have some of my classmates. I wanted to start walking, then graduate to jogging. So this hunt for items might make that fun for my daughter. Thank you!!

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