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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or simply autism, is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that affects cognitive health and development and therefore impairs the affected person’s communication ability and behavior. People with autism find it challenging to interact with other people and their environment as well. They also have restricted interests and are obsessive about their behaviors. … Continue reading “The Right Ways to Take Care of Your Autistic Child”
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or simply autism, is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that affects cognitive health and development and therefore impairs the affected person’s communication ability and behavior. People with autism find it challenging to interact with other people and their environment as well. They also have restricted interests and are obsessive about their behaviors.
Autism manifests differently in every child. For some, the impairment is mild, and for others, severe. In any case, it takes a lot of time and efforts to meet the demands of affected children.
Learning the right way to support and care for your autistic child can really make a difference in your child’s life and also give you some peace. In this article, we’ll discuss some simple everyday things that you can do to draw out your child’s unique strengths and abilities, and also help them feel safe and loved.
15 Important Tips for Taking Care of Your Autistic Child
There is no magic answer when it comes to parenting an autistic child. Every day is a chance to learn new things about your child and try as much as possible to tailor your care and teaching strategies to them. These tips are a great starting point. They can help you manage the difficult behaviors that your child may display and also help them feel understood. As you begin to learn what works for your child, you can modify these tips.
1. Learn As Much As You Can About ASD: To become a part of your autistic child’s world, you need to really educate yourself about autism. Absorb all the information you can find about it and also find out where your child falls on the autism spectrum. Of course, you won’t gain all that knowledge in a day or even a month. I know you’re in a rush to understand your precious child but be sure to make the learning process step by step so as not to get confused or even more overwhelmed.
When doing your research, do not rely on the internet alone. Get some good books on autism and reach out to experts for answers or a simpler explanation of things you did not understand. Also, try to go for seminars if you can, and book counseling sessions for you and your child. It is important that you’re able to make informed decisions for your child, especially when it comes to their treatment.
2. Be Very Observant: Even if you have the most experienced autism specialist observing and treating your child, you still need to step up and become an expert on your autistic child. Always look for patterns, hidden messages, and clues that could help you relate with your child better. Autistic children usually have non-verbal cues that convey how they’re feeling and what they want. Pay close attention to the sounds and gestures they make in different situations, and also notice the changes in their facial expression.
If your child is irritable or starts throwing a tantrum, try to remember what happened right before then and figure out the cause. Sometimes, they may just be upset (as you are) that you misunderstood them. As you learn what makes your child uncomfortable, stressed, or scared, don’t forget to also note what calms them. This could help prevent difficult situations.
Autistic children tend to be more sensitive to sound, light, smell, taste, and touch, so you need to watch their reactions to the varying intensities.
Don’t keep these observations to yourself. Let your child’s doctor(s), teachers, and therapist know about them so that they can also improve their interactions with your child.
3. Customize your Child’s Treatment Plan: Remember that autism presents itself differently in every child, so there is no single or universal treatment that works for every autistic child. This is why observation is key. When you know your child’s strengths, weaknesses, and interests, you can tailor their treatment according to their specific needs. The plan should have a predictable schedule and simple steps that your child can follow. You should know that your involvement is essential to the success of the treatment plan, so be prepared to work closely with the treatment team and learn how you can follow through at home.
4. Consistency is Key: Your child needs to keep practicing what they’ve learned at school or at the therapist’s office when they’re home. This is the best way to reinforce learning. Find out what they learn from therapy and school, and also the techniques that are used to teach your child, so that you can continue with them and not confuse your child.
If you can, talk to the teacher about changing the environment or design of the classroom from time to time, and also try to change the location of your child’s therapy so they can learn and get used to applying what they have learned in different environments and situations. Remember to take this slowly.
5. Create and Stick to a Schedule: One of the best things you can do for your autistic child is to set up a simple but detailed schedule for them and try hard to abide by it. Children with ASD crave consistency and often perform better when they have a routine. You can start by setting regular times for brushing their teeth, bathing, dressing up, eating, going for therapy, going to school, and bedtime. Always let your child know what activity comes next.
If your child has reading or language difficulties, a visual schedule would help. You can use pictures to show what happens next, or toys/materials that represent an activity. It may also help to set a timer so that your child can keep track of how much time they have left for an activity. You can get a visual timer to make things easier for your child.
If you really need to change your child’s schedule, prepare your child in advance and try not to change too many things at once.
6. Positive Reinforcement Helps: We all love and even look forward to being praised and appreciated when we perform well in certain areas or tasks. Acknowledging your child’s effort and rewarding them, no matter how small their achievements may be, goes a long way in building confidence and making them (and you) feel very good. If your child hasn’t developed a new skill or you haven’t caught them doing good, try setting expectations and praising them when they comply with your requests.
When you’re praising your child, be sure to be specific so that they know exactly what you’re happy about. For instance, if you’re on a phone call and your child is being loud and you say “please whisper when I’m on the phone”, and they comply, praise them by saying “Thank you for whispering. I was able to hear the other person better.” You could also give them a sticker or toy when they do good.
7. Give Your Child a Special Zone: Create a special safety zone in your house for your child. Make it so that your child can go there to relax or calm down whenever they feel overwhelmed or over-stimulated. If your child starts feeling uncomfortable outside, try to create an emergency safety zone in a quiet (or quieter) place with their favorite toys until you can take them home.
8. Initiate Playtime: Don’t forget to include playtime in their schedule. Always make time to bond with your child and have fun in a stress-free environment. Use the things that make your child feel comfortable and happy to come up with fun activities that could stimulate their interests. Some children enjoy and do better with hands-on activities. If your child starts to get frustrated with the activity, take a break and move on to the next. Initiate playtime sometime in the day, when your child is still active and alert.
9. Give Your Child Choices: No one likes being pressured into doing one thing. Choices or options give us a sense of control. The same goes for children, especially those with autism. Instead of suggesting one thing or just asking what your child wants, give them choices (about two to four). For example, you can ask if they want to watch TV or use the computer during their free time. You could also ask if they would like pancakes or a sandwich for breakfast.
If your child has language difficulties, you could put two or more pictures or objects/options up and ask them to point to the one they want.
10. Make Sure Your Instructions Are Very Clear: When giving directions, make the short and clear. For example, instead of telling them to tidy up their corner, you could say “put five balls in the bin and three books on the table.” If your child is making noise in the cinema, say “whisper in the cinema” rather than “stop making noise.”
Again, if your child has language difficulties, demonstrate the behavior that you want to see.
11. Let Your Child Tag Along When you Run Errands: Help your child get used to the outside world by taking them along for everyday activities like grocery shopping. When you get to the supermarket, explain what you’re doing. You can say “we’re getting milk now then we’ll go pick up apples.”
12. Try Your Best to Stay Calm: I know this can be really, really difficult sometimes but please make every effort to remain as calm as possible when interacting with your child. Try not to take out your anger or frustration on your child. Remember that they are also doing their best to understand you and be understood. Yelling or acting upset might make their behaviors and tantrums worse. Rather than focusing on the problems, try practicing acceptance. Show your child that you love them unconditionally.
13. Employ a Respite Caregiver: You will breakdown if you try to do it all by yourself. Taking care of an autistic child can be super challenging, so it is perfectly fine and even recommended that you take a break every now and then. Consider hiring a respite caregiver to look after your child while you recharge your physical, mental, and emotional battery. Your child needs you to be as healthy as you can be.
14. Find a Support Group: While you may have the support of your family, friends, and professionals, it always helps to find people who can relate to your struggles. Support groups are a great way to meet other parents dealing with the same challenges. You can gain and share information, get good advice, and offer each other support. You could also help your child make new friends.
15. Get Therapy: Caring for an autistic child can take so much from you and push you to your limits. Bottling up feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression is not healthy. You can’t take proper care of your child if your mental health is poor.
Don’t let things get worse before you decide to see a therapist. Book an appointment and go there to vent and cry if you need to. Your feelings are valid.
For extra support, you can go for marriage or family counseling