Life can be very hard

This is Rita’s story.
Rita was married young, very young. She discovered she was pregnant to David when she was just 17 years old. Rita and David had been courting, I love that old fashioned word, for 2 years, they were sure they loved each other enough to live together as a family when their baby was born.
Rita gave up her dream of becoming a travel agent and David continued with his carpentry apprenticeship.
Both sets of parents were supportive and helped the young couple find a suitable house to rent, they furnished with extras from their own homes and paid for second hand white ware to give Rita and David a good start in life.
Rita gave birth to a perfect baby girl. David finished his apprenticeship and got a permanent job with the company that trained him. Money was tight and there were arguments from time to time.
Young people expect that they will have years of little responsibility and freedom to socialise and holiday as they please. Having a child and a home to look after puts a brake on these ideas. However, Rita and David stayed together and Rita became pregnant with their second child.
James was born when his sister, Irene, was just over two years old. His Mum felt from the start that there was something different about James. Physically he was perfect, but he was a restless baby, he didn’t feed well and didn’t sleep well.
You know how stressful it is when you are short of sleep and worried about your baby.
By the time James was two Rita’s original feelings that he was different were confirmed, James was diagnosed with Autism. His behaviour was difficult to manage, he was not walking or making any attempts to speak, meal times were very difficult and he still didn’t sleep all night.
Rita and David were both tired and stressed, money was still short, Rita had hoped to find a part-time job but couldn’t leave James with anyone that didn’t know him very well. David was working long hours, coming home tired to an exhausted and worried wife, a little girl desperate for his attention and a son that simply screamed and screamed.
One night David phoned to say that he wouldn’t be home, he said he would see Rita in the morning. He said don’t worry, “I just need to have a quiet night”.
Rita collapsed, she would have settled for a quiet HOUR!

David and Rita split up. David has his daughter every weekend, but cannot cope with his son. Rita manages as best she can with help from both sets of parents.
The hardest thing for Rita to bear is that David is out getting on with his life. He is doing the socialising he missed out when they were young, he has money to spend. He does pay child support, but is now on a very good income and spends freely on his new friends.
Rita often feels at her wits end. She sees the future stretching out in a series of days spent managing James’ increasingly difficult behaviour and trying to give her daughter some quality time. She doesn’t have time, money or energy to socialise, she sees no possibility of ever getting a job. Rita feels trapped by her circumstances.
One step at a time for Rita, she is dealing with the loss of the life she thought her son would have and therefore the life she thought she would have. She is dealing with the loss of her husband, who just wasn’t mature enough to deal with his responsibilities. He is not alone, a large number of relationships break up due to one of the children having behaviour or health problems.
Rita’s greatest need was some time for herself and some time with her daughter.
The priority was to find ways to achieve these two things.
David’s mother is willing to come to Rita’s home with David to look after both children at home one night every week to let Rita go and spend time with friends.
Rita can get help with respite care for James one weekend in 6 and one night every week. She needs to organise this and trust that someone else can take care of James for short periods of time. She has to do this for her own health and sanity, and to get some time for herself and Irene to be together.
When James goes to school Rita will have some more time to herself but things will be difficult for James in school, he may not manage full days and there will still be the holidays to cope with – and that is still two years away.
It would help Rita if she could join a support group for families coping with Autism. Often through support groups you will find another family in a similar situation and you can work together to give each other some time off. Support groups are also a great source of information on other kinds of help that are available in the area.
Once you have identified what would help you most in your current situation, in this case, time, you can look for solutions to help you achieve that one thing. When you have that solution in place you can work on the next problem.
It is not possible to solve all of your problems overnight, but it is possible to change your life by identifying and working on your problems one at a time.

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