Also known as “autism spectrum disorder,” autism is a developmental condition that impairs the ability to communicate and interact. The spectrum consists of three disorders; Autism Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder.
Each type is categorized by different characteristics, although they do share some of the same symptoms. Autism is a condition that requires professional diagnosis and treatment. Parents of children with autism often feel lost and a sense of helplessness. On the contrary, parents can be the biggest influence of all. Here are ten things parents can do to help an autistic child.
10 Get Educated
As with any medical condition, the more you know, the better prepared you can be. Get educated about autism spectrum disorder. Learn where your child is on the spectrum. Know what types of treatments are available and which ones will be effective for your child’s particular needs.
Understand that autism isn’t a one size fits all condition. Gather all of the information that you can so that you can fulfill the specific needs of your child. Be inquisitive and take part in all of the decisions that are made in regards to treating your child.
9 Know Your Child
No two people on the autism spectrum are the same. It's important to know your child as an individual. What sets off his or her outbursts? What encourages calmer reactions? What makes your child anxious or afraid? What soothes them? Understanding the effects of outside influences on your child’s behavior is a great preventative measure.
It allows you to circumvent placing your child in uncomfortable and questionable situations. As their parents, you are your child’s first line of defense. They look to you for security and safety. Knowing your child can help to effectively provide what they need, on every level.
Getting a diagnosis of autism is never easy for parents. They instantly know that they will be faced with challenges and that life, for them and their child, will be very different. Take time to come to terms with the diagnosis but don’t stay there too long. Accepting the facts earlier allows parents to seek earlier treatment.
Many parents notice the symptoms prior to obtaining a diagnosis. Being in denial leads to making all of the wrong decisions. They put off getting a professional diagnosis, which in turn delays treatment, which in turn denies the child the opportunity of being the best version of themselves.
7 Create A Routine
One of the best things a parent can do to help a child with ASD is to create a routine and stick to it. They tend to respond well when life is scheduled and they know what to expect. A great idea is to create an interactive board for your child so that they can have a visual tool.
The visual tool helps encourage independent behavior by showing them what needs to be done and allowing them to signify when they’ve completed a task. Do what you can to not disrupt the routine. In the event the routine has to be altered, preparing your child ahead of time is advised.
6 Give Them A Safe Place
Home should always be a safe place for children with ASD. Create a place that they can call their own and makes them feel secure. Children with ASD tend to need boundaries. You may feel the need to take safety measures such as covering electrical sockets and keeping sharps out of reach. As previously stated, visual aids work well with autistic children.
Find a way to show them the limits and boundaries If you don’t want them in a certain area, use signs and colors to express this. Using labels is also helpful. Take these precautions based on your child’s behavior patterns.
5 Consistency Is Crucial
Children with ASD need more consistency than most other children. One of the characteristics of autism is difficulty adjusting what they’ve learned in one place for use in another. For instance, the teacher taught them ASL and they use it in class. It's not going to be apparent to them that they can use the same communication technique at home.
One of the ways to do this is to find out what your child is learning on the outside and then use it at home. This will help your child learn to transfer the skills they have learned from one area of life to another.
4 Praise Good Behavior
Positive reinforcement is important in raising all children. Yet, it can be extremely beneficial for children with autism. Parents should pay extra attention so that they can take notice when their child has done something good. Let them know that you appreciate that they behaved appropriately in a challenging situation.
Acknowledge that they learned how to do something new or that they conquered a fear. You must express which behavior you are praising. Find unique ways to help with this. For example, create a praise board. When your child received a certain amount of praise stickers, they can exchange them for a prize.
3 Know The Silent Signs
Many autistic children are non-verbal. However, verbal autistic children often struggle to express emotions. It's a parent's responsibility to know and understand these silent signals. Take notice of the noises and faces that they make. Children with autism usually use body language to communicate their wants and needs.
Knowing these signs can aid in preventing breakdowns associated with their inability to verbally express these things. This will take a lot of patience. Repetitive motions are common in children with ASD. The gestures that they make may have almost unnoticeable differences. Yet, the slightest variation can be the difference between a smile and a tantrum.
2 Be Aware Of Sensory Sensitivities
Some other classic characteristics of autism are extreme sensitivity to light, loud noise, physical contact, odors, and tastes. It’s imperative to know what sets your child off in regards to their senses. What causes a bad or a good reaction? What is stressful or soothing to them?
The key to successfully treating and supporting a child with autism is understanding all of the things that affect them, what the effects of those things are and how your child functions as an individual with a developmental disorder. Don’t set unrealistic expectations on your child but don’t set limitations either.
1 Take Care Of You
As important as anything else on this list is that you must take care of yourself! Raising a child that faces any type of challenge; physical, developmental or psychological, is a challenge of its own. You cannot effectively support or enhance a fulfilling life for your child if you aren’t healthy. Not just physically, but mentally as well. Take time for yourself.
When friends and family offer to step in and lighten your load, accept the help. No, others may not know how to care for your child. Still, having a couple of chores taken off of your hands can be a saving grace. Take care of yourself so that you can take care of them.