Working with autistic children is a unique challenge. As a parent, you end up having two jobs. One of helping the child develop and cope with autism and second, to be their guardian.
Some days are harder than others. Some days you want to throw in the towel. It’s okay to feel this way. Everyone does at some point. If you use your resources and create a support system, you can make things a little easier on yourself though. Let us be part of your support system. Here is a complete guide on how to help your child with autism thrive.
1. Familiarize Yourself with Autism
If your child shows signs of autism or if they are diagnosed, the best thing you can do for them is to get yourself familiar with it. The more you learn about it, the better equipped you’ll be to help the child through it. Read up on treatment options, ask their doctor questions, and be an active player in their treatment. If you’re not sure where to start with your research, check out a few autism apps. Some of them are informative.
2. Pay Attention to Your Child
All autistic children will respond differently to outside stimuli. You should pay attention to what causes certain triggers in your child. Find out what agitates them or makes them happy for example. Once you sort out what triggers them, it will be easier to create and alter their schedule around these things.
3. Accept Everything About Them
When you see how everyone else’s child is developing, you may start to compare them to your own. Instead of focusing on how slowly or differently your child is developing, learn to accept them for who they are. Autistic children have their own quirks that make them a joy to work with. It makes them unique.
4. Allow for Consistency
It can be hard for your child to retain the information they learned in class. You’ve got to reinforce the learning by creating consistency. Sit down with their therapists to ask them what sort of exercises they are doing in school. Apply these concepts to things that they learn at home. Also, ask their therapists if there is any way to do a few at-home sessions.
5. Create a Schedule
One thing that you should know about autistic children is that they like structure. This being said, your child will thrive best if you put them on a schedule. There are no limits to the things that you put on this schedule. Pencil in time for school, therapy, even sleep, and mealtime. Once you’ve written out their schedule it’s important that you are strict about sticking by it. If something comes up and there’s no avoiding changing things around that’s fine but take the time to prepare your child for this unwelcome change.
6. Check for Non-Verbal Cues
Some children with autism don’t or can’t use words to communicate what they want. What they will do is give you non-verbal cues. It will be up to you to decipher these cues and act accordingly. Look at their expressions or the sounds they make when they’re tired, agitated, happy, or hungry. This goes back to the “paying attention to your child” point we made above. If you miss the cues or don’t bother to learn them you may risk agitating your child. You would be frustrated too if you were trying to tell someone that you’re hungry and they ignored you or didn’t know what you were saying.
7. Make Room in the Schedule for Fun
When you’re making their schedule don’t forget to leave a place in there dedicated to fun. Every child needs to have some form of play in their life in order to develop certain skills. Make sure that their playtime doesn’t feel like therapy or homework. If you do that then they won’t want anything to do with it. Also, don’t be afraid to get down on the floor and play with them. They want to connect with you and spend time with you. Don’t deny them that.
8. ADS Support Groups
There will come a time when you feel like you’re at the end of your rope with your child’s development. It’s during this hard time that you would be glad that you joined an ADS support group. These groups are full of parents that are going through the same things that you’re going through. They’ve been in your shoes and can offer a lot of great advice. On top of advice, they can also act as your friends by giving you emotional support.
9. Respite Care
Everyone needs a chance to breathe now and again. That includes you. Do yourself a favor and give yourself a break with respite care. If you’re unfamiliar with respite care, it’s when another caregiver comes in and takes over things for a little bit while you take a break. You can take advantage of their services for a few hours or even a few days if you really need it.
10. Don’t Give Up
The last thing to keep in mind when working with an autistic child is to never, ever give up. Your child will develop differently than other children. That doesn’t mean that they will never develop or never be able to live a normal life. Your child has an entire lifetime to grow and become the person that they want to become. The best thing you can do is be there for them through it all.
A Parent’s Guide to Working with Autistic Children
Working with autistic children is a fun and unique challenge, but a challenge none the less. If you equip yourself with the right of knowledge, you’ll find that helping them thrive is a little easier than you thought. Try out some of the tips you read here before and after you get their diagnosis. Set your baby up for success. Being a parent can be hard, autism or no. We’re here to help.