There are many things you can do to help a child with Autism overcome their challenges and make continuous efforts towards their goals. These parenting tips can help.
A Parent’s Guide to Autism Support
If you have recently learned that your child has autism, you are probably wondering and worrying about what comes next. You could be perplexed by conflicting treatment recommendations or uncertain of how to best support your child. Or you may have been convinced that ASD is an incurable, lifelong condition, leaving you worried that nothing you do will help.
While it is true that ASD is not something an individual “grows out of”, there are many tips and therapeutic interventions that can help children acquire new skills and overcome a wide variety of developmental challenges. To address your child's special needs and support them in learning, growing, thriving, and striving in life, assistance is available, ranging from free government services to in-home behavioural therapy and school-based programmes.
Do Not Wait for a Diagnosis
The best thing you can do as a parent of a child with ASD or related developmental delays is to begin therapy as soon as possible. As soon as you suspect a concern, seek assistance. Do not wait to see if your child will catch up later or outgrow the problem. The earlier children with ASD receive assistance, the greater their chances of treatment success. The best approach to improve a child's growth and reduce symptoms of autism over time is through early intervention.
When Your Child has Autism…
Learn About Autism
The more you understand about autism spectrum disorder, the better equipped you will be to make informed decisions for your child. Educate yourself about the treatment options, ask questions, and actively participate in all treatment decisions.
Make Efforts to Understand Your Child
Find out what causes your child’s challenging or disruptive behaviours and what elicits a positive response. What frightens or stresses out your child? Calming? Uncomfortable? Enjoyable? Understanding how your child is affected will assist you in resolving challenges more effectively and prevent or improve difficult situations.
Be Accepting of Your Child
Practice acceptance rather than focusing on how your child differs from other children and what they are "missing." Take pleasure in your child's unique traits, acknowledge little victories, and avoid comparing your child to others. More than anything else, your child will benefit from feeling accepted and loved unconditionally.
Helping Your Child with Autism Strive
Tip #1: Provide Structure and Safety
Children with autism have a hard time applying what they have learned in one setting, be it in school or in treatment sessions, to others including home. As an illustration, your child might communicate with sign language at school but not have considered doing so at home. The most effective approach to support learning is to provide consistency in your child's environment. Learn what the therapists are doing with your child and use the same methods at home. To help your child apply what he or she has learned from one environment to another, consider having therapy take place in more than one location. Furthermore, it is also crucial to maintain consistency in how you interact with your child and manage difficult behaviours.
Create a Safe Area at Home
Create a dedicated area in your home where your child can relax, feel comfortable, and feel safe. This will involve organising and setting boundaries in ways they can comprehend. Visual cues can come in handy (coloured tape marking areas that are off limits, labelling items in the house with pictures). Additionally, you might want to child-proof your home, especially if your child is prone to tantrums or other self-harming behaviours.
Maintain a Schedule
Children with autism tend to do better when they have a structured schedule or routine. Again, this goes back to the consistency they both need and crave. Establish a routine for your child's mealtime, therapy sessions, school time, and bedtime. If a schedule change is required, have your child prepared for it in advance. While you should try to prevent having to make big interruptions to the routine, be careful not to create a routine that is overly fixed as this may also cause them to become fixated on it and get upset when the routine is disrupted.
Reward Good Behaviour
For children with ASD, positive reinforcement can go a long way, so try to "catch them doing something good." Be extremely explicit about the behaviour you are praising them for when they behave appropriately or when they master a new skill. Consider additional methods of rewarding them for excellent behaviour, such as letting them play with a favourite toy or giving them a sticker.
Tip #2: Connect Through Nonverbal Ways
It can be challenging to connect with a child who has autism, which could impede efforts to support them in thriving and striving hard toward their goals. However, a positive note is that you do not have to talk to communicate and bond. Your body language, tone of voice, and the way you look at your child are all ways you communicate. Your child is also communicating with you, even if he or she never speaks. You simply need to learn the language.
Look for Nonverbal Cues
When you are observant and aware, you can learn to pick up on the nonverbal cues that children with autism use to communicate. Pay close attention to the sorts of sounds they make, their facial expressions, and the gestures they use when they are tired, hungry, or want something.
Find Out the Motivation Behind the Tantrum
When you are misunderstood or neglected, it is normal to feel upset, and this may also be the case for children with autism. Children with autism typically present behaviours as a result from our failure to recognise their nonverbal cues. Throwing a tantrum is frequently their way of communicating their frustration and getting your attention.
A child coping with ASD is still a child. For both children with autism and their parents, there needs to be a balance between life and therapy. Determine when your child will be most active and alert for fun. Identify the things that make your child laugh, smile, and come out of their shell as you try to come up with activities to have fun together. Your child is likely to enjoy these activities most if they do not appear to be therapeutic or educational. Both you and your child will benefit significantly by taking pleasure in one another's presence and spending time together with no pressure. Play is an essential part of learning for all children and should not feel like work.
Pay Attention to Your Child’s Sensory Sensitivities
Many children with ASD experience hypersensitivity to touch, sound, light, smell, and taste. Some children with autism are “under-sensitive” to sensory stimuli. Identify your child's "bad" or disruptive behaviours to see what sights, sounds, smells, movements, and tactile sensations they are drawn to, as well as what makes them happy. What creates stress for your child? Calming? Uncomfortable? Enjoyable? Understanding how your child is affected will assist you in resolving issues more effectively, avoid challenging situations, and promote positive experiences.
Tip #3: Help Your Child Find Joy and Purpose
When children are engaged in meaningful activities and work that piques their interest, it is easier for them to persevere, be optimistic about the future, and develop confidence.
Be an Observer
As mentioned in Tip #2, it is best for parents to stop and take a close look at their children to learn and understand more about them. What activities seem to ignite your child's imagination or give them an extra spark of joy? What seems to increase their confidence, reduce their stress, or help them enjoy their own company? Find out what helps your child be the best version of themselves, and provide them with the freedom to pursue those activities. This often requires shelving our own expectations about what they “should” be doing. One way to help children find their spark is to introduce a variety of new activities especially during Scheduled Playtime.
In short, the best way to help our children with autism strive is to listen to them and be there for them on their journey.
Written By: Hanyu
Kris, D. F. (2021, June 8). Striving or thriving? steps to help kids find balance and purpose - mindshift. KQED. Retrieved December 29, 2022, from https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/57946/striving-or-thriving-steps-to-help-kids-find-balance-and-purpose#:~:text=Help%20Them%20Find%20Joy%20and,thrive%20on%20purpose%2C%20says%20Borba.
Smith, M., Segal, J., & Hutman, T. (n.d.). Helping your child with autism thrive. HelpGuide.org. Retrieved December 29, 2022, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/autism-learning-disabilities/helping-your-child-with-autism-thrive.htm
Interacting with a Child Who Has Autism Spectrum Disorder. Stanford Medicine Children's Health - Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2022, from https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=interacting-with-a-child-who-has-autism-spectrum-disorder-160-46
Tips that improved my autistic child's behavior. Autism Speaks. (n.d.). Retrieved December 29, 2022, from https://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/five-tips-helped-improve-my-childs-behavior