If you are a parent of a child with autism, you are probably aware of how heavy the responsibility can feel. The needs of a child with autism are many, and if you are unprepared for it, life can feel overwhelming and frustrating. Autism is a developmental disorder that, according to the CDC, affects one out of every 44 children in the United States.
Children with autism have issues with communication and social interactions, such as making friendships and relationships, hypersensitivity to certain stimuli, and repetitive behavior patterns. In today’s article, we are going to explore how parents can help a child with autism live a more fulfilling life.
What Can Parents Do At Home?
Before looking at strategies and interventions that can be done at home, it is important that parents consult with a mental health professional who is experienced in treating the condition. This is needed because some forms of autism can be too much for parents to manage by themselves at home.
Seeking professional help is vital, as there are a number of interventions that have seen success in improving the quality of life of both the individual and the family.
Applied behavior analysis is one such treatment that seeks to help children develop the skills required to form relationships and improve their communication.
You can learn more about applied behavior therapy here: http://lcabatherapy.com/. ABA is one of those therapies that are evidence-based and primarily relies on positive reinforcement as a method to improve the likelihood of desirable behaviors.
There are many such interventions, but at the end of the day, parents are acutely aware that there is still no surefire way to fully cure the condition. This means that even the best therapeutic approaches right now are limited in their function and only aim to make the child adjust better to the world around them.
Sometimes, parents aren’t sure how to create a conducive living environment for their child, which can create a lot of distress. To address that issue, here are some helpful aspects to keep in mind:
#1. Create a Structured Environment
One of the issues that children with autism face is the tendency to become easily overwhelmed when there are too many stimuli in the environment. As parents, something that can help you quite a bit is learning to identify what your child’s triggers are, so that you are able to create a structured environment at home.
Providing the child with a daily routine where expectations are clear can go a long way in reducing the stress and anxiety that the child experiences. It may be tempting to push them out of their comfort zone, but this often leads to disappointing results because parents push too much and too fast.
Remember that any new approach is best discussed with your therapist so that unnecessary tension is avoided. It is possible for children with autism to experience regression in their behavior when there is sensory overload and inconsistent routines. Even a lack of consistency can be a contributing factor to regression.
#2. Learn How to Communication With Them
A common mistake that many parents make is associating a lack of communication with a lack of intelligence. This cannot be further from the truth. Many children with autism are highly intelligent but have difficulty in the way they express themselves.
Consider reframing your expectations and accept that the type of conversations you have with your child may be a little different than what you are used to. Your child may prefer to communicate via gestures rather than orally. If this is the case, try to be open to that dynamic, and respect that they feel comfortable communicating like this.
Accepting that your child has unique ways of communicating can make his or her life much happier.
#3. Focus on Improving Their Strengths
It is easy for parents to be so overwhelmed with the challenges of communication and behavioral issues that they forget something very important:
Children with autism often have unique strengths and abilities. For instance, many children with this autism show strong attention to detail and are able to notice patterns and aspects that a lot of “normal” children miss.
This can give them a great edge in academics, and it is possible for many children with autism to excel in science, engineering, and programming.
If the child has taken a fancy to art, encourage them and provide them the resources that they need to develop the passion. Building the child’s confidence through a positive and supportive environment can go a long way in making them feel more secure about their strengths and abilities.
This leads to a higher sense of self-worth and self-respect in the future.
Being a parent of a child with autism is not easy. The many support forums and groups that exist for parents to share their stories, struggles, and advice prove this fact.
Trying to force things to be normal often leads to regression in the child and stress for everyone involved. Instead, consider the idea that unique situations require unique approaches. Educating yourself and other members of the family on how to best deal with the situation is the best way to move forward productively.