Caring for someone who has autism can mean having limited energy, time, and bandwidth. You may find yourself needing to say "no" more often than you did before you became a caregiver. Do you have a tough time being direct with others about how you feel? It's not unusual to feel awkward or self-centered when turning down a request or an invitation. You may feel at the mercy of the other person's need.
Using "I" statements can help put you back in the driver's seat of the situation. An "I" statement directly communicates your feelings and sets a clear boundary, allowing you to focus on caring for your loved one on the spectrum and managing autism-related challenges like sensory processing difficulties or fixations. For instance:
I don't feel like going.
I'd rather do something else instead.
I can't do it this week.
Whenever I attend that event, I regret going.
At first, you may feel vulnerable about using direct "I" statements when saying no. Your true feelings are exposed, and you may be judged for using caregiving as an excuse. "I" statements can also be freeing! You don't need to pretend or tell a white lie. It's ok to communicate directly about what you need.
Using an "I" statement is a way of taking responsibility for your feelings. You are not blaming or accusing the other person. You are being honest about your needs and making sure they are recognized.
Parents and caregivers on MyAutismTeam shared some of their experiences with communicating directly:
"I’ve been very vocal so I'm pretty sure I have made a bad rap for myself."
"If he can't walk a mile in my shoes, don't spew that kind of negativity towards me."
"I told her I’m hoping she will take what I’m telling her seriously because my son has not gotten the help he needs."