09/30/2015 08:10 EDT | Updated 09/30/2016 05:12 EDT

Why Autism Isn't a Cause of Divorce

The challenges parents face raising a child with autism is amplified a thousand times over. We often don't know what to do or how to help our child. But even with all the challenges, autism isn't what causes a couple to divorce.

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Young couple having relationship difficulties, shallow depth of field focus on foreground

I'm sure you've heard it countless times before; how autism was the root of the many problems within the family unit which eventually led to the demise of the marriage. This suggestion began surfacing years ago, along with an "80% divorce rate" attached to the myth, instilling fear in families with a recent diagnosis of autism.

However, recent studies such as the one published by the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders in 2012, are beginning to debunk this urban legend.

Yes, parenting is hard. Raising these adorable little ones comes with many challenges and responsibilities. The challenges parents face raising a child with autism is amplified a thousand times over. We often don't know what to do or how to help our child. We second guess our decisions and we are often forced into isolation in order to provide for our child in a manner that best suits them and their needs.

But even with all the challenges, autism isn't what causes a couple to divorce. In fact, by saying autism causes couples to divorce, one is in essence blaming the autistic child.

You cannot separate autism from the person. Autism is a neurological disorder that is very much an integral part of their being. It is their biology. It is who they are. They cannot change it any more than we can change the color of our eyes or our blood type.

Think of how a child must feel when he/she hears their mom or dad say they got divorced because of "autism." Do you not think this child will feel some sort of responsibility for the end of their parents union? Words matter and they can damage a child far deeper than any physical wound.

If autism truly was the cause of failed marriages then tell me why so many blended families that have children with autism are still united and going strong?

My son's autism wasn't the cause of my divorce and our blended family has been united for 10 years now.

I want to tell families and couples that are starting this journey with autism not to read into this hype about being doomed from the start. You're not.

Underlining issues that have never been formerly addressed will often be the contributing factors leading up to the divorce. Autism will have nothing to do with it but it sure is easier to put the complete blame on autism.

There are a myriad of reasons why marriages fail but here are my top five issues that I feel can lead a couple towards divorce:

1.Not on the same page. Not only is the couple not on the same page but they aren't even reading the same book. This can be seen in many areas of their union, from managing their finances to disagreements on how to raise their children. As time goes by, what used to be common ground no longer looks even remotely similar to what it did at the beginning.

2.Lack of Communication: When one spouse (or both) fails to communicate effectively with their partner, then resentment starts to filter in because they begin to feel as though they are not being understood, they feel excluded and not treated fairly.

3.Lack of Respect: We know that any form of abuse, be it physical or verbal, is unacceptable, married or not. Degrading a spouse falls in this category as well, such as using foul language when speaking to them, purposefully being intimidating and insulting in an effort to make them feel bad. Even subtle insults, the so called "jokes", are not acceptable.

4.Social agenda outside of marriage: When one spouse is spending more time away from home, be it with his/her friends, or more time at work with their co-workers, this can lead to the beginning of an emotional detachment from their marriage which can in turn lead to having less intimacy with their spouse and ultimately, infidelity.

5.Addiction: Any form of addiction (drugs, alcohol, gambling) is detrimental to any relationship. These are deal breakers and unless they are addressed, the marriage will be at a serious risk of failing.

These issues are serious enough to put an end to any union. If these issues are present in a marriage without ever being properly addressed and dealt with, having a child with autism will only put more strain in an already stressed situation.

It's wrong to blame autism for the failure of a marriage. By doing so, one is blaming the autistic person. It is time to take responsibility for our actions and not use autism as a scapegoat.

I know of many families that have grown stronger and closer because of their child with special needs.

Many people just don't realize the stigma that autistic people have to live with on a daily basis. This is just another one to add to the growing list. But I will continue to advocate and do my part to debunk these myths and shine light on the truth.

A marriage isn't doomed from the start because they have a child with autism; a marriage is doomed from the start because serious issues plaguing the marriage were never properly dealt with.


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