When autism is diagnosed early the long term outcome is almost always better since you can start behavioral therapy early on.
Being a parent is a demanding task that requires a lot of effort. If you have a special needs child then you will find parenting even more challenging. No parent is prepared when they find out that their child has autism and it may seem completely overwhelming, however there are some steps that you can take that will help you to cope easier and help you to assist your child better.
Here are some simple parenting tips for children with autism:
1 Structure, Routine & Safety
All children need structure, routine and safety but children with autism need it even more so. An autistic child will struggle to apply things learnt in one setting to another, so it will be important to find out what your child is learning at school and in therapy so that you can also apply those things at home.
Consistency also needs to be applied to the way you deal with your child’s challenging behavior and interact with your child.
Try and keep your daily routine the same as far as possible, so therapy times, meal times, play time and bedtime should be the same as far as possible. There will be times that you will need to break your schedule, so when this happens let your child know in plenty of time and help your child prepare for the change.
While it may seem easier to keep your child at home due to unpredictable behavior it is important for your child to learn how to deal with the outside world too. Choose some regular errands that you do with your child such as grocery shopping so that your child can get accustomed to doing it on a regular basis. This should be included in your schedule and over time it will get easier and you child will become better adjusted.
It is a great idea to set up a safe zone for your child in your home. This space should be a quiet area where your child can be comfortable, relax and feel safe. You can mark this space out clearly for your child. Keep in mind that your child has sensory sensitivities. This means that your child is super sensitive to sound, light, touch, smells and movements. Take this into account when you create this safe zone. This is going to be the place for your child to get away from it all and be safe.
2 Put Emphasis On Play
Play is important for all children, as well as children with autism. In fact it may be even more important since your child will be doing a lot of therapeutic activities. Try and keep play as fun as possible, focusing on things that will bring your child out of his or her shell. Keep in mind that verbal skills is not your child’s forte so try and get some non-verbal activities that you can do together too so that your child can relax and not feel too much pressure. Remember to keep play fun rather than therapeutic.
Make sure that you put loads of play time on your schedule and try to make it at a time that your child is most alert.
3 Positive Parenting
Positive parenting is important for all children, but even more with special needs children. It is important to be patient and accept your child at whatever stage he or she is at.
Focusing on the positive behaviors in your child with praise and rewards will go a long way. Be very specific when you praise your child so he or she knows exactly what it is that has been achieved. Find ways to reward your child for positive behavior that will reinforce your praise.
Your child will regularly have tantrums and difficulty controlling his or her negative behaviors. Try to be patient and not to let this affect you, rather keep focused on figuring out what the trigger is for this behavior. Your autistic child will have more difficulty communicating and this can be a huge source of frustration for your child. Try and learn your child’s non-verbal cues.
4 Figure Out What Works
There is no one thing that will work for all autistic children. Your child will have his or her own unique triggers and ways of communication. Since your autistic child will struggle with verbal communication you will need to pay special attention to your child’s non-verbal communication.
Learning about autism and specifically about your own child is key here.
You will need to try out different things to find out what really works for you and your child. Trust your instincts and try to be patient with yourself and your child. There are so many different types of approaches to treating autism so if you try one type of therapy and it doesn’t work don’t let if get you down. Keep trying until you find the unique plan that works best in your unique circumstances.
5 Get Support
Looking after yourself is essential so that you are emotionally, physically and spiritually strong enough to look after your child. While you may feel that taking some time off from your child is selfish and that it is your responsibility you do need the time off to look after yourself.
Get a family member to look after your child regularly or a carer so you can rest a bit.
Joining a support group for ASD will help you immensely since you will be able to meet other families that are dealing with the same things you are. You will be able to get advice from other people that are facing the same challenges as well as get emotional support when things get tough.
Dealing with a special needs child can take its toll on you emotionally, so you (or your parter) may suffer from depression, stress or anxiety. Consider getting counseling for yourself, or marriage/ family counseling. This will help you and your family to work through the challenges that you face.
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Also published on Medium.