Once a child is clinically diagnosed with one of the three forms of Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD), things can get very hard for the parents. After the initial shock and despair of being officially told about your child’s long suspected condition dissipates, multiple worries regarding his future and the steps you now need to take to ensure that future begin to surface. While nobody really wants to be in that position, it is an unavoidable circumstance for some and if you happen to be one of them, it’s time to buck up and face what cannot be avoided.
As a parent, your focus should be to help your child through the tough ordeals that he is already facing, as well as preparing the child for the future, as best as possible. A special needs child will need unique care and parenting, because the normal rules of parenting will mostly not apply to him. Read on to find out certain specific ways in which you can actually help your child accept his/her situation and overcome the upcoming inevitable hurdles in life.
Don’t lose patience and be consistent because an autistic child will take more time to both learn and apply what he has been taught, than others. Talk to a therapist and replicate some of the exercises and techniques at home as well. Repetition is the key to success here.
Prepare a schedule and maintain it religiously because your child will need the consistence to both learn and feel comfortable. The schedule should include, but not be limited to, specific meal times, bedtime, school, play time, therapy sessions, etc. Breaking the schedule should be avoided as best as possible, but if it cannot be helped, communicate with your child about it in advance so that his mind can prepare for the disruption.
Never forget that he is just a child and just like any other child, he also needs a healthy dose of fun time with the family. However, you will need to figure out what makes your child happy as the usual toys and games may not make sense or appeal to someone with ASD or SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder). Introduce some sensory toys into the mix which are found to be very helpful in increasing body awareness and drawing attention in autistic children. Most importantly, they can make your child smile and feel comfortable.
The reasons for throwing a tantrum are the same in autistic children as they are in all children, but the difference lies in how they express themselves. Nonverbal cues like facial expressions, audible sounds and physical gestures are often ways of communicating their needs to their parents and if those needs are ignored, a tantrum often follows. It is therefore imperative that parents observe and understand the ways in which their child is trying to communicate with them.
Hypersensitivity and Hyposensitivity
Although hypersensitivity is more common among special needs children than hyposensitivity, the latter is not absent in the population either. Hypersensitivity to sound, light, certain smells or tastes and even the sensation of being touched can be very bothersome and stressful for someone with even the mildest form of autism. On the contrary, some of these external factors can act as positive stimuli as well. It is the job of the parent to work with the therapist in order to figure out which stimulants elicit which reactions and control their effects on the child’s daily life.
These five pointers should guide you towards the right path to help your child through autism, but there is a ton of other little things that a parent will find out and need to adjust accordingly to over the years. The most important thing to always remember is that the key is staying calm. Parents are human beings too, and the stress of continually dealing with all these things can wear you out. Therefore, it is necessary to take a break every now and then to ensure that your energies are refilled. Rely on your partner during those times when you feel overwhelmed and seek help from others when you need to.