How To Get A Parent Out Of Autism Denial
Im often asked How do you get a parent out of autism denial? In the first page of my book, The Verbal Behavior Approach, I say that my husband first mentioned the possibility of autism when Lucas was only 21 months old. I was horrified and I told him that I never ever wanted to hear the word autism again. And its kind of ironic because I say, speak, type, and write autism so many times a day now.
I quickly went into a deep state of denial for over a year. This denial didnt help anyone, especially Lucas, who fell further and further behind his peers. To the point where I had to do something. That year was so critical. Back in the late 1990s, I didnt know what ABA was. And I certainly didnt know the techniques I now use. So its very exciting when I get to work with very young children. Because thats when youre going to see the most progress.
You may have older clients and older children, and I want to tell you its never too late. Im making lots of progress with older kids as well, and so its never too late to start these interventions.
How To Discipline A Child On The Autism Spectrum
The purpose of discipline is to set healthy boundaries and clear expectations of appropriate behavior, not to punish or embarrass your child.
While there are certainly challenges to disciplining a child on the autism spectrum, discipline instills valuable lessons that the child will take with them their whole lives. Keep reading to learn safe, effective, and compassionate strategies for how to discipline a child on the autism spectrum.
You Will Mourn The Life You Had Planned
Upon learning of a diagnosis, it is a normal human reaction to grieve your original plans of what parenting and child-rearing would look like. Family members will react in a variety of ways and will have to figure out their own path to processing the news. It is very common to become a super-obsessed, information hound when first diagnosed. Read blogs and books to become informed but not too many. Autism can be a pretty heartbreaking piece to read online. So you will need a bit of hope. The best books I would recommend is The Spark & The Reason I Jump .
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Open Doors Therapys Approach To Helping Individuals With Autism And Their Families
As autism specialists, we know social interactions can be stressful and draining for our clients with autism. We understand the loneliness and pain that comes from feeling different. We provide support and strategies to help our neurodiverse teen and adult clients better navigate the social world and anxiety.
We know deep down our clients want to make friends and feel like they belong. Through individual or group counseling, we provide our teen and adult clients with high-functioning autism the emotional support, strategies, and practice they need to develop and maintain positive relationships and achieve their goals.
Through our online counseling services, clients can access support from the comfort of home.
For clients who are interested in a social skills group, we initially do an intake appointment. During this time we get to know them so we can match them with a group made up of their peers who match their skill set and their interests. We do this specifically to help them feel comfortable during group therapy. This fosters a sense of connection and comradery and creates the optimal opportunity for growth and self-improvement.
Worried You May Be Suffering From High Stress
Take our 2-minute stress level quiz to see if you could benefit from further diagnosis and treatment.
Physical StressChronic stress can make parents of children with autism more vulnerable to cardiovascular, immune system, and gastrointestinal issues. One study found that they are more likely to have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol and a biomarker known as CRP, which has been linked to a variety of physical illnesses. Caregivers may also suffer from increased fatigue or struggle with insomnia, especially if their child also struggles with sleep.
Social StressMuch of the general public is uneducated about autism spectrum disorder, and people may blame or shame a parent when they misunderstand a childs behaviors. This can create a stigma that can lead to parents feeling socially isolated. They might begin to avoid public gatherings or spending time with friends and family. Parents of children with autism may also be more likely to experience marital stress.
Financial StressSome research has found that parents of children with autism may earn less money or have to work fewer hours than other parents. Caregivers may also face additional expenses such as therapy, medical expenses, and child care that put an additional financial burden on the family. Some parents are even at risk of losing their jobs if they have to frequently take off work to care for their child.
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Dont Stop Trying To Include Us
Autistic children, their siblings, and their parents are simply people, and people like to feel as if they are a part of a community. Though spending the day with a child on the Autism Spectrum may come with a few additional challenges, continue to spend time with them. Ask families to come to the Sunday BBQ, ask questions to better understand, and invite the parents out for dinner and an evening away. If they say no, ask again next time.
A Day In The Life: Raising A Child With Autism
I am the mother of three children, the oldest being Lil’ D, who is 10 years old and has moderate to severe autism. Lil’ D is nonverbal and sometimes aggressive. He can’t read or tell me why he can get suddenly sad or angry, but his receptive skills are remarkable. He also has a real connection to close loved ones. Raising a child with autism is a constant challenge, and being his mother is an exhausting, exhilarating, and lonely roller coaster ride.
Amal, our second child and our only daughter, is 7 years old and Hamza, our youngest, is 3 years old. With the varying personalities of three children , my husband and I feel both overwhelmed and blessed with love and support. How do we keep everyone happy and moving forward while assessing all the moods, behaviors, and responsibilities of Lil’ D’s needs? It is difficult to paint a portrait of what it’s like to manage the day-to-day life of a child with autism, but here I offer a realistic view of parenting a child with special needs.
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Challenges Of Secondary Settings
Educators and other key stakeholders in the students life must understand how characteristics of HFA may be manifested in inclusive classroom settings, in order to design and implement instruction to maximize student success.
An additional consideration is the reduced special education support available to students with HFA because of the need to take classes associated with graduation requirements and preparing for high-stakes testing. In most cases, secondary settings do not have enough special education teachers available to support students in all classes . Knowledge of the evidence-based practices recommended for students with HFA can help Individualized Education Program teams make informed decisions about instruction, behavior management and support needed for students with HFA.8
Dont Forget About Your Self Care
These are uncharted waters for everyone. Parents are doing their best to teach, work, and run a household. When doing all this with a child who has special needs, there is even more to contend with and navigate. Lawrence Booth, a teacher and program coordinator at East Mountain School at Hackensack Meridian Carrier Clinic, shares some tips to stay grounded and take care of yourself.
- Routine is everything. Make it your own. Figure out what you need to schedule first and then frame your childs plan around it. What works for you may be different than someone else.
- Be patient. Success doesnt come immediately. Stick to your new routine, remain calm, and be firm. Eventually a child will know their parent has become a solid object in new parts of their daymeaning a permanent and consistent figure amidst all the changes.
- Use visual cues to evoke happy memories. Pull out a photo album or have a family video playing in the background, with the sound off. These nonverbal cues remind kids of a happier time and can help calm them.
- Tap into resources. Rely on family and friends for support. Dont be afraid to try something different or ask questions. Connect with parents who can relate via virtual support groups.
- Dont be judgmental of yourself. This is not easy, it will take time, and youre doing the best you can with the resources available.
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Dont Wait For A Diagnosis
As the parent of a child with ASD or related developmental delays, the best thing you can do is to start treatment right away. Seek help as soon as you suspect somethings wrong. Dont wait to see if your child will catch up later or outgrow the problem. Dont even wait for an official diagnosis. The earlier children with autism spectrum disorder get help, the greater their chance of treatment success. Early intervention is the most effective way to speed up your childs development and reduce the symptoms of autism over the lifespan.
When your child has autism
Learn about autism. The more you know about autism spectrum disorder, the better equipped youll 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 on your child. Figure out what triggers your kids challenging or disruptive behaviors and what elicits a positive response. What does your child find stressful or frightening? Calming? Uncomfortable? Enjoyable? If you understand what affects your child, youll be better at troubleshooting problems and preventing or modifying situations that cause difficulties.
Dont give up. Its impossible to predict the course of autism spectrum disorder. Dont jump to conclusions about what life is going to be like for your child. Like everyone else, people with autism have an entire lifetime to grow and develop their abilities.
Set Home And Personal Boundaries
During the current quarantine, a parent may be both working and caring for their child. To help your child separate fun time and work time, allocate certain areas for each. Without changing the overall look of ones home, it may be helpful to establish activity zones in different areas of the home, such as mom/dads work space and the play room. This visual separation of space for specific activities will also help set nonverbal boundaries. Dont get discouraged if there are interruptions in your work day, it will happen.
Other boundary setting strategies include using tools, like a kitchen timer or cellphone countdown, to designate uninterrupted work time. If one-on-one oversight of the child is required, try to utilize self-soothing therapies and quieter activities during set work hours. Dual working parents can also stagger their work schedules so that one parent is with the child while the other parent works.
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I Empower Parents To Help Their Atypical Kids Thrive
Why am I training parents? First and foremost, Im one of you a parent of a child with ADHD + autism. Through that life in the trenches, I became a parenting trainer, coach, author, and near ADHD-aholic, dedicated to helping you survive and thrive in this special parenthood.
We all want a patient, calm, peaceful, cooperative, purposeful, and joyful parenthood. No doubt. When you have a child with ADHD or autism, it takes more work, and very specific work to accomplish those things. But, it truly can be done.
Educate Yourself About Your Childs Condition
Youll need to do some research before fully understanding how to discipline a child on the autism spectrum.
Read up on the condition to make sure youre setting realistic expectations for your child. Some behaviors cannot be disciplined away by a parent, and should instead be evaluated by a professional.
For example, self-stimulation is very common in children with autism. These behaviors help them regulate their emotions, and you could do more harm than good by punishing them for doing it.
Remember that autism exists on a spectrum, meaning every child will experience different symptoms in different ways. Its a good idea to speak with other parents whose children have autism. Youll get a better idea of how to set expectations, especially if you speak with a parent whose child has symptoms similar to yours.
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Autism Causes The Brain To Process Things Differently
Children on the Autism Spectrum process differently things others often take for granted. Crowds, loud noises, and bright or blinking lights, among countless other things, can often lead to extreme anxiety or a total meltdown on the part of the child. As one parent of an autistic child stated, If you are in a supermarket and your child is getting overwhelmed and maybe making a scene, it makes it ten times worse when people around you are giving you dirty looks or making comments.
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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How Can I Help Teach My Child Social Skills
Every parent wants their children to form relationships that make them happy. Children with autism approach social situations with anxiety and frustration, but parents can help kids gain confidence, especially those on the high-functioning end of the spectrum.
Parents can model and explain social behavior to their child. After a particular interaction, they can provide a detailed, step-by-step explanation for their behavior, including their facial expression, tone of voice, and body language. Explanations and instructions that target the why of the behavior can be helpful since that understanding doesnt come naturally to those with autism.
Parents can discuss social situations the child sees on TV or ones theyre likely to encounter at school. The parent and child should take turns role-playing, so that the child practices playing both individuals in the scenario.
Scheduling play dates with kids in a support group can allow children to practice social skills while providing parents an opportunity to discuss strategies with other parents.
The Family Time Around The Dinner Table
By 6:30 every night, Lil’ D is circling the stove, trying to see what’s cooking. This kid’s stomach is a clock, and he wants his meals on time. If dinner isn’t ready, he throws a tantrum. He’s also a picky eater and has followed special diets in the past, so we cook at home nearly every night. The evening meal is an important time when we come together as a family and share our day. It’s also a hectic time when the kids are complaining about the food, and I’m constantly enforcing manners. Lil’ D usually picks the meat out of his food, eats about half , and runs off while also coming back to take more bites.
My rules are: Sit in the chair, eat the entire meal, and say “All done” at the end. I’m also teaching him how to set the table. Rules and consistency are important with Lil’ D. If I don’t demand proper behavior over and over again, while frequently enduring outbursts and pinches in the process, Lil’ D will not learn any dinnertime etiquette. Still, I pick my battles. If he really doesn’t like the meal, I will feed him. I try to stick to the rules all the time, but often it’s impossible.
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How To Cope With The Life
Our talented team of experts in neurodiversity offers several useful tips for both autism parents and neurodiverse teens or young adults who are struggling to cope with social distancing, distance or hybrid learning, and the changes theyre experiencing in their lives.
We know that autism parents need and deserve support too. So, we began offering a free online autism parent support group to help parents of twice-exceptional children navigate these challenges and more. Its our sincerest hope that this group will be a place of refuge for struggling autism parents as well as a place where they can find their tribe of parents dealing with similar issues.
Check out both blogs!
Please Let My Child Play With Your Child
A study done in Australia found that 42% of teens and adults on the Autism Spectrum do not feel comfortable leaving their own home because they often feel others treat them negatively. Not only is this heartbreaking for the affected individuals, it also leads to further misunderstanding and stigma about autism by the general public. Children with autism like to play with their peers, and largely benefit from being included in things like play dates and sports teams.
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Tip : Find Help And Support
Caring for a child with ASD can demand a lot of energy and time. There may be days when you feel overwhelmed, stressed, or discouraged. Parenting isnt ever easy, and raising a child with special needs is even more challenging. In order to be the best parent you can be, its essential that you take care of yourself.
Dont try to do everything on your own. You dont have to! There are many places that families of children with ASD can turn to for advice, a helping hand, advocacy, and support:
ADS support groups Joining an ASD support group is a great way to meet other families dealing with the same challenges you are. Parents can share information, get advice, and lean on each other for emotional support. Just being around others in the same boat and sharing their experience can go a long way toward reducing the isolation many parents feel after receiving a childs diagnosis.
Respite care Every parent needs a break now and again. And for parents coping with the added stress of ASD, this is especially true. In respite care, another caregiver takes over temporarily, giving you a break for a few hours, days, or even weeks.