Healthy World, Healthy Nation, Healthy You

Building the Family Circle with an Autistic Child-Learning to Live with Autism: Keeping the Whole Family in Focus and Taking Care of Everyone’s Needs

Robert A. Naseef, Ph.D.
Alternative Choices
Philadelphia, PA


With the new CDC statistics that indicate that one in 68 children are diagnosed with some degree of autism along the Autism Spectrum Disorder range of mild, moderate to severe. This translates to one in 34 families who are affected.

This is a disorder that has gained increased awareness over the past decade thanks, in large measure, to consumers who have taken the reigns and spoken out, reached out, and through using their voices on behalf of their children, have made the invisible, visible.

As the public begins to have awareness of the expanse of this problem, there is still the reality of what happens to individual people when they are faced with having a child with autism.

Family stories help to grasp the enormity of the problem for the individual child as well as for the entire family system that has to cope with this challenge over the course of a lifetime.

Luckily, most children are maintained in the community and at home, thanks to the heroism of the families and the access to services that exist for early identification and intervention.

NaseefRobert Naseef is seasoned by 25 years of professional practice as an independent psychologist with Alternative Choices in Philadelphia. Dr. Naseef’s specialty is working with families of children with autism and other special needs. He has published in scholarly journals and other publications. He has a special interest and expertise in the psychology of men and fatherhood. Robert relates to community and professional audiences and is a sought after speaker around the country who has appeared on radio and television. In 2008, Robert was honored by Variety, the Children’s Charity for his outstanding contributions over the past 20 years to the autism community.

His 2013 book, Autism in the Family: Caring and Coping Together (Brookes Publishing) integrates advances in research and treatment with clinical experience to help families navigate the emotional landscape and the practical roadmap through the lifespan. Special Children, Challenged Parents: The Struggles and Rewards of Parenting a Child with a Disability, his first book, received international recognition. He has lectured internationally and appeared on radio and television. He is the co-editor with Cindy N. Ariel of Voices from the Spectrum: Parents, Grandparents, Siblings, People with Autism, and Professionals Share Their Wisdom (2006). Living Along the Autism Spectrum (2009) is a DVDwhich features him with Stephen Shore and Dan Gottlieb.

You can visit him on the web at


Robert Naseef is one of those rare individuals who has had to deal with a son with autism and who has since dedicated his life to working with families who face similar challenge so as to make their individual journey a success as well. His goal is to help families live life with joy and celebration.

His doctoral degree from Temple University is in the area of psychological studies with a dissertation entitled What Helps Families of Exceptional Children to Cope Successfully. He is living his dissertation findings in real life every day.

In this third discussion, he shares his own experience, with unvarnished emotion and a description of the self-compassion that he had to adopt.This program focuses on the interpersonal aspects of how a family develops and operates with a child with ASD. He addresses the stress on a marriage or primary relationship and acknowledges that there are many different expressions of family in our culture. He discusses issues faced by siblings and how to address their needs and stress as well. He also notes the differences between fathers and mothers in how they typically react to an autistic child. The personal self-disclosure he shares is inspiring to anyone who has had to see their child as vulnerable and helpless in the face of an irreversible illness or disorder.

3 Key Points:

  1. Make time to appreciate each other for the challenges involved in dealing with everything that is now become a necessity in order to take care of your child’s special needs.
  2. Likewise make special time to spend with your other children and be sure to reinforce everything they are doing right, and explain autism at their level as well as accept the reactions that typically are expressed as other children do not receive the same amount of attention.
  3. Take male and female differences in how individuals as Mother and Dad or sister and brother react to an autistic child or sibling: learn to listen to each other and verbally appreciate different perspectives


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