Find Other Parents Who Will Understand And Support You
“It always has been invaluable to have other parents who are going through the same thing as you are, to call them up and say I cant believe this is happening to me today. Because to the rest of the community, the things that happen to us, theyre really not the norm.” Ruth Singer Strunck, the mom of two young adults with autism
Im Not Someone To Pity Simply Because My Child Has Autism
Autistic children are writing books, making films, creating blogs, and making all sorts of other groundbreaking achievements. Yet, when a parent tells someone their child is autistic, they are usually met with an unnecessary apology or look of pity. Autism is not something to be pitied, and our societys outlook should change to reflect that.
Other Family Therapy For Autism
Many programs to treat autism recommend family involvement. For example, “floor play” may develop social and emotion-control skills, involves parent to play intensively with their child. Collaborative Problem Solving focuses on improving the ability of children to handle their passion and think more widely, while Functional Behavioral Analysis aims to develop social skills. These all involve both the parent and child.
Many of these treatments are effective, and the programs that involve parents can help them feel empowered and supported because stress and difficulty coping often come along with the challenges of raising a child with autism.
Stress on the parents can appear at every stage of a childs life: parents often feel shock and scare during toddler years as they first observe their child’s struggles. Anxiety often accompanies the challenges to receive appropriate services during schooling years. Parents may face disappointment and sadness in the teen years, when they notice failed socialisation and the rejection of their child by peers. Demands of resource and renewed time can be added with the struggle to find appropriate services during the transition to youth. Moreover, parents may experience exhaustion as they face the increasing demands of caring for adults with autism.
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This Is A Great Time To Parent A Child With Autism
“I am grateful that we live in the times that we do. So much new information has been discovered about autism. We live in the age of the internet and I can connect with another autism mom who lives several states or even countries over and talk about our shared experiences. I am grateful to have things like iPads that not only help my son communicate but also gives us a chance to share a moment while watching one of his favorite YouTube clips. A tip of my cap to the families that went before us. They really helped pave the way for the benefits my son has now. I hope I can do the same for the ones coming behind us.”
Eileen Shaklee, Wall, New Jersey
Dont Worry About What Other People Are Thinking
The most freeing moment of this journey for us was when we stopped worrying about public appearance. Your child needs for you to be 100 percent in tune with them and what they are experiencing, not worried about how you are perceived.
Sarah McKamey, Manchester, Tennesseee
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A Message For Autism Parents After Their Childs Diagnosis
January 22, 2021 by Dr. Tasha Oswald
Youve just received an autism diagnosis for your child or teen. Perhaps, you suspected youd receive this news, or maybe it caught you off-guard. Regardless, youre now an autism parent, and youre probably wondering, what next? In my many years as an autism therapist, I have coached parents through a variety of different emotions and struggles regarding their childs autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. After all, this was not the path they imagined their child taking through life. This often leads to grief and sadness. But, it doesnt have to. Last week, we took a deep look into the world of high-functioning autism, but today, I want to elaborate on my message and offer hope to new autism parents.
Parent Child Interaction Therapy
Parent-Child Interaction Therapy is a treatment program specially engineered to help parents and children improve their relationship and to train parents with the fundamental skills to maintain the behavioral issues of their children. However, the therapist team can help to find out if PCIT program meets the child-parent team’s needs or not.
Have a question about
PCIT specialists guide parents with particular skills and give them time to hone these specific skills during the program. The various skills range from regular therapy sessions to regular home sessions.
Parent-Child Interaction Therapy serves families with children between the ages of 2 and 6 who display chronic behavior problems at home, daycare, preschool or school, and who may be on treatment to handle their behavioral issues. It is important to know that experts will determine whether PCIT is appropriate for each specific case, based on the specific symptoms and requirements displayed by the child and the family.
The PCIT services include the following:
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Parenting Reflections From A Dad With A Lifelong Autism Diagnosis
Christopher Scott Wyatt is an adult with autism who blogs about his experiences at http://www.tameri.com/csw/autism/. He and his wife are the foster parents of children with special needs.
What led you to discover your own autism diagnosis?
Since the labels kept changing, Im not sure they were helpful if anything they limited options early in my education. Today, were ambivalent about the diagnoses of our children. It can help, and it can hurt.
Did learning that you are autistic affect your decision to have children? And if so, how did you make the decision?
Not really. We waited until we owned a house and were reasonably secure, which is probably more about our personalities in general. My wife and I wanted to offer a good, stable home for any children, whether natural or foster-adopt.
Did learning that you are autistic change the way you parent?
It’s possible that my autism makes me more patient, if only because were aware of how I experienced education and supports. Im patient with the needs of the children for quiet, order, and a sense of control. I understand wanting things to be orderly and predictable. They need that, as foster children, and they will need it if we’re able to adopt.
What kinds of parenting challenges do you face because you are autistic?
What are some coping techniques and strategies that you’d like to pass along?
Are there autism-related therapies that help you better manage parenting?
Telling Your Child About Their Autism Diagnosis Is Hard
When your kid is diagnosed when theyre younger, parents often grapple with what to tell their child about their diagnosis. There is a group of parents that are afraid to tell their child they are on the autism spectrum and a group that shares the diagnosis with their child. The group that is afraid to tell their child often says things like I dont want him to feel different.I dont want others to pick on him. I get that. Of course, as a parent, you dont want your child to be labeled as different. However, hiding their autism does not fix this. In fact, it usually makes it worse. When you hide things from your child, you are quietly suggesting that it is shameful to discuss. At least, that is how the child is likely to interpret it.
Instead, if a parent tells their child about their diagnosis, using a strengths-based approach, they can actually build the childs self-esteem. What is a strengths based approach? Well, its an approach that acknowledges all the things your child does well and all the supports they have in their life. This helps the child learn how to self-advocate rather than hide in the shadows due to shame.
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Talk About The Child’s Interests
Narrow or extreme interest in specific topics is a core autism symptom. Children can be fascinated by almost anything, including maps, numbers, recipes, geography, and more.
For children with autism, talking about these topics brings comfort. They enjoy sharing knowledge, and they can talk endlessly about the subject without asking for your feedback.
Bond with the child by listening to the topic. Ask questions, if you can. Avoid changing the subject. Just let the child talk until you know one another better.
We Dont Need Autism Awareness We Need Autism Acceptance
Youve probably seen the bumper stickers, Facebook posts and the t-shirts calling for Autism Awareness. But as parents of children on the Autism Spectrum continually insist, our society is aware of autism. Its autism acceptance that we need. Though one in 68 American children are now diagnosed with autism, our society still treats autistic individuals and their families as social pariahs. To become a more inclusive society will take advancements in access to services, affordable health care, employment opportunities, Medicaid expansion, fair pay, and more opportunities for quality education.
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Impact On Parents And Caregivers
Nicole Buerkens, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area, says that parents of autistic children often feel overwhelmed and underprepared even before a child is diagnosed.
Parents know that something is developmentally off track with their child, and theyre also dealing with a lot of other challenges on a daily basis, Buerkens says.
When a child receives an autism diagnosis, some caregivers may not be able to get appropriate support for their child due to their location, availability of services, or financial situation.
In Buerkens experience, oftentimes families feel guilty for having a range of emotions regarding their childs autism diagnosis, including fear, anxiety, and frustration. They might not know how best to support their child, or whom they can trust regarding treatment and support.
Research from 2009 shows that mothers of autistic children, who tend to be a childs primary caregiver and decision maker, experienced more stress and fatigue than mothers of children without ASD.
In addition, other research from 2009 indicated that mothers of autistic teens were more likely to have higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
While one 2014 study noted that mothers of autistic children were more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder , the research was limited to white professionals and not indicative of the general population.
Sharing An Autism Diagnosis With Family And Friends
Tips for explaining autism to family and close friends, to help them become effective allies
- How can parents of kids with autism help friends and family understand the diagnosis?
- What are some common misunderstandings about autism?
- Why do relatives sometimes dismiss the diagnosis or say you are overreacting?
Tips To Cope With Internal Stressors:
- Have realistic expectations and a mindful attitude. This can make a huge difference.
- Get professional help to identify challenges and stressors, and deal with them effectively. This goes a long way in reducing stress.
- Surround yourself with supportive people who can help whenever there is an increase in the negative self-talk.
- Stay away from sources of information, advice and guidance that increase/cause stress. Trust your intuition when it comes to your child. Often, professionals underestimate the parent’s awareness of their child’s need and requirements. Assess risks versus benefits for all that you do. Choose the path that is most child-friendly.
- Understand that every state, including anger, grief, helplessness, guilt and exhaustion, is a part of the process. Do not deny yourself the right to feel any of these emotions. Seek professional help to develop emotional regulation. Not everyone is capable of meditating and finding inner peace – some can do well with just a little support.
- Work with your child as gently as you can, but remain firm with structure and routines. Always stay focussed on the process and not just the outcome. Children with autism respond very well when they know that their needs are being understood and supported. The stress behaviours only manifest when we push too much, too often and too soon.
Getting The Right Diagnosis
Studies have shown that early diagnosis and intervention can have a positive impact on life outcomes for children with autism.
The sooner the diagnosis is made, the sooner the child can access help through speech and other types of therapy. If a child is showing signs of autism, it is better to seek advice than to ignore them.
With intervention, about 3 percent of the children with ASD will ultimately lose their diagnosis. These are usually children with high-functioning autism. Therapy can help them to maximize strengths and overcome difficulties.
Authors of one study found that 13 percent of children who were diagnosed with autism lost their diagnosis as they got older. Experts for the Cleveland Clinic suggest that at least some of these may have been misdiagnosed initially.
For this reason, they urge parents to seek a specialist diagnosis, because the more reliable the diagnosis, the more suitable the intervention will be.
Apart from getting an early diagnosis from a specialist, Autism Speaks suggest a number of ways that parents can give their child the best possible life chances.
Parents, they say, should learn all they can about autism, but check to make sure the information is correct. Being informed will make them a better advocate for their child. Help and opportunities are available in the fields of health, education, and development. Health providers and support groups can help parents to find the right information.
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No I Dont Just Need To Discipline My Child More
Meltdowns are not tantrums. They are not the result of a lack of discipline on the part of the parent. Children on the Autism Spectrum have sensory issues. One child may be a sensory avoider, while another is a sensory seeker. And kids with sensory issues do not respond well to physical punishment. Spanking, time out, and yelling are not usually effective tools of discipline for a child with autism. Rather, parents of children on the Autism Spectrum rely on routine and repeated exposure to teach their autistic children rules and boundaries.
Please Stop Complaining About Your Autistic Children
Now, before you start throwing things at me, let me clarify.
I understand that autism is not always sunshine and rainbows.
I understand that parenting an autistic child can be frustrating, exhausting, overwhelming, and downright scary at times.
I pinky promise Ill explain what parents should do when feeling such big feelings about autism and their child. Just hold tight.
And before anyone saysbut you cant possibly understand because you and your child are high functioning which is totally different.
Ill ask that you kindly read this post about the harm in functioning labels.
The fact is that autistic advocates from many different ability levels agree No one should publically complain about their autistic child.
Now that we have that out of the way, lets get to the meat of it
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How To Calm A Child With Autism
There are certain calming do’s and don’ts that apply to most children with autism. These are based on the factors that autistic children have in common, specifically:
- Difficulty with understanding social norms and conventions
- Difficulty with following or using non-verbal communication
- Unawareness of others’ likely reactions to behaviors
- Sensory challenges that can get in the way of positive behaviors
- Lack of social motivation
Make Them Feel Safe And Loved
Sometimes our children are so lost in their emotions that they cant hear us. In these situations, all we need to do is simply sit with or be near them.
Many times, we try to talk them down from their panic, but its often a waste of breath when a child is in the throes of a meltdown.
What we can do is let them know that theyre safe and loved. We do this by staying as near to them as theyre comfortable with.
Ive lost track of the times that Ive witnessed a crying child be told that they can only come out of a secluded space once they stop melting down.
This can send the message to the child that they dont deserve to be around the people that love them when theyre having a hard time. Obviously, this isnt our intended message to our kids.
So, we can show them were there for them by staying close.
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Tips For Staying Calm
Of course, the best way to be calm is to stay calm to start with. That means teaching your child how to manage his or her own feelings.
There are some techniques which, while not failproof, can make a big positive difference. Many are related to sensory integration therapyan approach which helps people with sensory dysfunction to manage challenging situations. These techniques include:
Be Grateful For The Strong Connection You And Your Child Will Forge
In reflecting over the last 24 years of our journey, I will say this: My son gives me 100 kisses and hugs every day, he is always happy to see me and he will always be with me. He doesnt lie and he doesnt judge. He is welcoming to anyone that wants to enter his world. On the other hand, my father sees me about twice a year since we live 1,000 miles apart. So which dad is better off? Its not better or worse, its just different. Once you understand that, your road will be smoother.
Scott Sanes, Great Barrington, Massachusetts
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