Parenting can be challenging, and it’s a full-time job with its fair share of ups and downs. For every success, there would be several instances where you’re questioning yourself and rethinking your parenting choices. However, this job can be ten times harder for parents dealing with neurodivergent children.
Even as we spend each day with our children, it can sometimes become pretty hard to understand them. Neurodivergence is incredibly varied, and there are several issues you may have to deal with. Of these, one of the most daunting is autism.
Autism can be a challenging condition to understand, especially with all the misconceptions surrounding the topic. Having a child falling on the autism spectrum can be a massive challenge for any parent. You might worry about caring for your child and ensuring they’re happy.
However, you can keep reading below for a clear, concise guide on how to care for a child with autism.
1. Work with a professional
For starters, the most important thing to note is that it can be incredibly challenging to understand your child’s condition without professional help. Autism is an umbrella term, and the disorder can manifest differently, in varying levels of severity for all children.
So, what works for one child may not necessarily work for yours. Working with a professional can help you quickly identify your child’s triggers and behaviors, so you can work towards solving them.
Moreover, one of the biggest issues parents of autistic children deal with is honing desirable behaviors while reducing the frequency of undesirable ones. Working with a professionally trained therapist can let you have the greatest success in this regard.
Applied behavioral analysis is an incredibly effective technique that can promote better social skills, hygiene, and responsibility and decrease problem behaviors. Working with ABA therapists can make it much easier for you to tackle your child’s behaviors and ensure they can gain independence.
2. Follow their schedules
One of the biggest things to focus on when working with an autistic child is their schedule. People on the spectrum function best when they can follow a strict routine, and if you deviate from this, they can experience a lot of distress.
The better you organize your day into a routine, the more success you can expect to have. Your child can feel at ease and motivated if you have designated time slots for classes, eating, socializing, playing, and sleeping.
Additionally, depending on the severity, children with autism can have difficulty adjusting to new locations or people. If your child faces this issue, you might want to take it slow when adding anything new to their schedule, be it a new location, person, or activity. Gradually introducing them to unfamiliar stimuli can make it easier for them to accept the change.
3. Recognize their strengths
As a parent to a neurodivergent child, it’s vital to realize that your child’s brain functions differently than other kids. Your child will not reach the same milestones they will, and expecting the same or pushing them to it will only cause your family distress. Children with autistic children need to realize that their strengths are much more diverse compared to neurotypical children.
Your child may not excel in science or language but may be gifted in math. Alternatively, they may not be academically inclined but may be exceptionally talented at sports, art, music, or anything else. If your child has exceptional talent in one field, they may have Savant syndrome.
However, even if they aren’t savants, your child will have areas where they flourish, and it’s vital to recognize their strengths. Even if it’s in a somewhat unconventional field, it’s essential to let your child do what makes them happy and hone their talents personally.
4. Be emotionally expressive
One of the biggest issues that parents of autistic children can face is when it comes to emotions. Autistic children may not have the emotional recognition and reciprocity that neurotypical children do. This means they may not recognize when you’re affectionate, upset, or at times. However, this doesn’t mean that you cease emotional expression altogether.
Children with ASD can quickly start feeling neglected and unloved, so you must consistently show affection and love. When expressing appreciation, it’s essential to consider your child’s likes, dislikes, and triggers. Some children with ASD can have an aversion to physical touch, so physical expression may not work with them.
However, you can keep tailoring your expressiveness to what suits your child best and let them know they’re loved.
5. Reduce any triggers
Triggers are the most common cause of problem behaviors in autistic children. Children on the spectrum can be extra sensitive to stimuli such as light, sound, and sensation, and any drastic changes can easily upset them. While you may be able to reduce the frequency of such triggers at home, controlling them outside the house can be challenging.
One of the best ways to comfort your child if they face any triggers is to give them something they’re comfortable and attached to. This can be a toy, a blanket, a book, or anything else your child has latched onto.
Additionally, carrying noise-reducing headphones, sunglasses, and other items can help you keep your child away from any triggers.
Hearing the words ‘autism spectrum’ can be incredibly challenging as a parent. We can often mistakenly believe that this diagnosis will significantly impair our child and bring a lot of negativity. However, when handled correctly, it is very much possible for your child with ASD to lead a happy, fulfilling life.
Following this guide can help ensure you provide your child with the environment they need to prosper.