A guide to assisting individuals support children with Autism.
There are many things you can do to help a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) overcome their challenges. These tips, treatments, and services can help.
Guide to Autism treatment and support
If you’ve recently learned that your child has or might have Autism Spectrum Disorder, you’re probably wondering and worrying about what comes next. No parent is ever prepared to hear that a child is anything other than happy and healthy, and an Autism diagnosis can be particularly frightening. You may be unsure about how to best help your child, or confused by conflicting treatment advice.
While Autism is not something a person simply “grows out of,” there are many Autism treatments that can help children acquire new skills and overcome a wide variety of developmental challenges. From free government services to in-home behavioural therapy and school-based programs, assistance is available to meet your child’s special needs and help them learn, grow, and thrive in life.
When you’re looking after an autistic child, it’s also important to take care of yourself. Being emotionally strong allows you to be the best parent you can be to your child in need. These parenting tips can help by making life with an autistic child easier.
Don't wait for a diagnosis
As the parent or guardian of a child with Autism or related developmental delays, the best thing you can do is to start treatment right away. Seek help as soon as you suspect something’s wrong, and engage the assistance of a support worker for autistic child. Don’t wait to see if your child will catch up later or outgrow the problem. The earlier children with Autism Spectrum Disorder get help, the greater their chance of treatment success.
When your child has Autism
Learn about Autism
The more you know about Autism, the better equipped you’ll be to make informed decisions for your child. Educate yourself about the treatment options, ask questions, and participate in all treatment decisions.
Become an expert
Figure out what triggers your kid’s challenging or disruptive behaviours and what elicits a positive response. What does your child find stressful or frightening? Calming? Uncomfortable? Enjoyable? If you understand what affects your child, you’ll be better at troubleshooting problems and preventing or modifying situations that cause difficulties.
When your child has Autism
It is critical that you provide structure and create a safe environment.
Learning all you can about Autism and getting involved in treatment will go a long way toward helping your child. Additionally, the following tips will make daily home life easier for both you and your child.
Children with Autism have a hard time applying what they’ve learned in one setting (such as the therapist’s office or school) to others, including the home. For example, your child may use sign language at school to communicate, but never think to do so at home. Creating consistency in your child’s environment is the best way to reinforce learning.
Reward good behaviour
Positive reinforcement can go a long way with children with Autism, so make an effort to “catch them doing something good.” Praise them when they act appropriately or learn a new skill, being very specific about what behaviour they’re being praised for. Also look for other ways to reward them for good behaviour, such as giving them a sticker or letting them play with a favourite toy.
Create a home safety zone
Carve out a private space in your home where your child can relax, feel secure, and be safe. This will involve organizing and setting boundaries in ways your child can understand. Visual cues can be helpful (coloured tape marking areas that are off limits, labelling items in the house with pictures). You may also need to safety proof the house, particularly if your child is prone to tantrums or other self-injurious behaviours.
What should you avoid if your child has Autism?
Autistic children can have a severe response to feeling overwhelmed. They may appear to happen without warning. All children experience this but if your child has Autism these may be stronger and more frequent. Your child may also need more recovery time. Some of the usual calming strategies may not be effective. But learning about what causes your child’s meltdowns and how to calm them can help you to support your child.
Every child is different, but some common triggers or things to avoid include:
- Sensory overload or under stimulation. This is when a child is sensitive to sound, touch, taste, smell, visuals or movements.
- Changes in routine or dealing with an unexpected change. People with Autism often prefer to have a routine in place. They can be sensitive to even small changes.
- Anxiety or anxious feelings.
- Being unable to describe what they need or want. Communication is often non-typical for those with Autism. It can feel frustrating for them when they’re misunderstood.
- Keeping a behaviour diary can help spot possible patterns. Note down when meltdowns happen. Write down what you were doing, where, and your child’s reaction.
School life and Teachers
This is something every parent is faced with, and it can be an overwhelming time if your kid has Autism. You have to navigate the decisions around Mainstream school, satellite/support class, special needs school, public, private, independent, or for some families, home schooling… there are many options to consider.
Start looking at your school options long before your child needs to enrol. Support from professionals and from other parents can be so valuable during this period. Make sure you consult with the professionals who work with your child and talk to parents at the schools you are considering.
It’s so important that you are prepared for what can be a very demanding time.
Take care of yourself
The life of a parent or carer of a child on the Autism Spectrum is different to those who have neuro-typical children. Whilst others may have spent the school holidays buying whatever uniforms, lunch boxes and stationary were on sale and coming up with glorious day trip plans on a whim, you have been meticulously looking for clothing that will not cause a sensory reaction, washing that item a few times to soften it, ensuring lunch box clasps are loose enough for little fingers with weaker fine motor skills to open, providing routine and a schedule during the holidays and working hard to support your child as they learn a couple more self-care type skills.
So, what can we do, as parents, to prioritise our own mental health? Here are some practical ideas:
- Look for the moments of gold in your day, no matter how small. Recognising all those small wins can help create a gratitude mindset, which has a dramatic impact on our mental health.
- Engage in something that makes your heart sing! Is it being in nature? Find a quiet spot in your back yard or local area, have a coffee, and breathe. Is it exercise? Pull out a yoga mat or go for a run or short walk.
- Reflect on the expectations you have about yourself and let some go.
- What can you say ‘no’ to so that you can say ‘yes’ to self-care? This will bring such a sense of relief!
- Connect with others who walk a similar journey so that you can build quality friendships built on understanding and respect. Some of your most loyal, new friends you make in this season will be other parents of children on the Autism Spectrum.
The Maple Commitment
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