You Cant Always See Autism
There is still a shocking amount of ignorance among the general population when it comes to the Autism Spectrum. Many people assume that children with autism have certain identifiable facial features or particular habits. But as it has already has been mentioned, every single person with autism is different and mild cases of autism are common. These stereotypes and lack of understanding often make things difficult for parents. Its especially hard in the case of schools, coaches, or other organizations who deny a diagnosis because it is not easily seen.
Work With The Food Aversions And Sensitivities
It is very common for autistics to have some amount of food aversion. This can be caused by a sensory difficulty , whether the food is dry or wet or even by the colour of the food. In some instances, the autistic child cannot tell you why they cannot eat something. For me, its broken eggs. I simply cannot eat a broken egg and if the yolk splits in the frying pan, then it goes into the bin, and I start again. I have no idea why this is.
The important thing here is to accept that your child cannot eat specific foods that they are adverse to and try to slowly introduce other foods into their diet.
Under no circumstances should you ever force-feed your child or shame them for not eating the food that you have given them. All this will achieve is creating an issue with food in general and foster a great deal of anxiety for your child. Later, food-associated trauma can manifest as life-threatening eating disorders.
Theres A Difference Between Forcing Behaviors And Encouraging Independence
Ive learned from experience that trying to force independence is counterintuitive, whether or not your child has autism.
When we push a child, especially one prone to anxiety and rigidity, their natural instinct is to dig their heels in and hold on tighter.
When we force a child to face their fears, and I mean screaming-on-the-floor petrified, like Whitney Ellenby, the mother who wanted her son with autism to see Elmo, we arent actually helping them.
If I was forced into a room full of spiders, I would probably be able to detach from my brain at some point to cope after about 40 hours of screaming. That doesnt mean I had some kind of breakthrough or success in facing my fears.
I also assume Id store those traumas and theyd invariably be triggered later in my life.
Of course, pushing independence isnt always as extreme as the Elmo scenario or a room full of spiders. All of this pushing falls on a spectrum ranging from encouraging a hesitant child to physically forcing them into a scenario that has their brain screaming danger.
When we let our children get comfortable at their own pace and they finally take that step of their own volition, true confidence and security grows.
That said, I understand where the Elmo mom was coming from. We know our kids would enjoy whatever activity if they would just try it.
We want them to feel joy. We want them to be brave and full of confidence. We want them to fit in because we know what rejection feels like.
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Watch Your Words As You Speak With An Autistic Child
Raising a child with autism requires the use of gracious words. I know it hurts to see your child with disabilities but that shouldnt alter your words used in communicating to them. Its disastrous to use insulting words at them. This implies that your words can either become a healing or destructive balm. Depending on how you utilize them.
Using words like youre worthless, you would never learn or why dont you ever fit in like other kids tears down their self-esteem and worsens their condition. In contrast, use supportive and loving words I believe in you, you can do it, youre a genius, youre unique among others.
If Your Child Has Sensory Issues Find A Good Occupational Therapist Specialized In Sensory Management
An occupational therapist with the right background can not only help your child by providing the stimuli they need to regulate their sensory systems, butthey can also teach you how to recognize your childs signals that they areover- or under-stimulated. They can also tailor a sensory diet that you can provide your child at home. When a child is regulated, they are calmer, happier kids who are far more likely to be able to sit still, interact, and concentrate.
So Here Are Twenty Tips To Help You On Your Journey:
1. Like neurotypical children , autistic children are all different.
The spectrum is not a line where you can mark where your child sits on it. It is more like the playground polyhedron shown below.
Some things that work with one autistic child wont work with others you will need to experiment with what works and what doesnt with your child.
2. Talk to and learn from autistic adults.
They are generally more-than-happy to answer any questions you may have.
Many neurotypical parents of autistic kids feel that the autistic adults are nowhere near as severe or impaired as their children, so those autistic adults couldnt possibly understand their familys struggles.
The truth? We WERE those children. The difference between autistic children and autistic adults is that weve had years of practice with masking, self-regulation, social interactions, and how to manage our limitations autistic children havent had that practice or necessary experience. Just because autistics dont meet NT developmental milestones at the same pace doesnt mean theyll never get there.
Autistic adults are a gold mine of knowledge on different tactics, things to try, things to avoid, etc. Mostly, though, they have first-hand knowledge on how autistic childrens brains work.
3. Accept your children for who they are. COMPLETELY.
4. Dont try to change them.
They are a square peg in a round-peg world. No amount of pushing or turning will make them a round peg.
6. Manage their sensory needs.
Fight Fight Fight For The Right Support Therapies Diagnoses And School Placement For Your Child
The government in the UK does not budget enough for autistic supports/diagnostics, so you need to be prepared to fight for what your child needs. I hear in the US, the availability for quality supports varies from neighbourhood to neighbourhood.
You know your child better than anyone in the world. Dont be afraid to question doctors or specialists- they are getting a snap shot image of your child, whereas you live with them 24-7. Trust your instincts, and feel proud of yourself for doing the hard work of advocacy. Its thankless, but well worth it for your child.
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
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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Listen To The Parents
Just as you surround a child with autism with acceptance, do the same for parents. Your support could mean the world to them.
Advocates explain that parents would love a night off to decompress and get away. If you feel comfortable with the idea, offer to babysit. If you don’t, provide a listening ear to a parent in need. Schedule a regular coffee date for decompression and chatter, or set up play dates between your children while you both supervise.
How Should I Talk To My Child About Autism
Parents should aim to be open, factual, and positive. Children pick up on others feelings and attitudes, which can shape how they see themselves. If parents tiptoe around autism, keep it hidden, or feel uncomfortable talking about it, children can come to believe that they should hide their autism or feel ashamed or fearful of it.
Parents can also recognize their childs strengths and challenges. Everyone has domains in which they struggle and those in which they excel. A child with autism may struggle to connect with others but excel at sewing or math. This can be a valuable framework with which to discuss their experience.
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Believe In Her Possibilities
I want you to know that theres a place in the world for your daughter. I want you to know that whether or not she grows up to have a normal life isnt the most important thing. I want you to know that there is no shortage of wonder and rewarding experiences in the world, even if her life doesnt resemble the one you mightve anticipated for her. Even if she never speaks. Even if she never looks you in the eye. Even if she doesnt go to prom. Even if she never goes to college. Even if shes never able to drive. Even if she never has a romantic partner or gets married. Even if she never has children of her own. Emily Page Ballou
Parenting A Child With Autism
Discovering that your child has autism can change your life tremendously. Notwithstanding your deep love for your child, parents can experience feelings of grief, anger, fear, and stress. Parents may worry that their vision for the childs future has disappeared, that their relationship with their spouse will be strained, that the family will face mounting financial pressures. Its natural to feel overwhelmed.
But know that autism is a common conditionaround 1 of every 54 children has a diagnosisand treatments have helped many children with autism go on to live full, meaningful lives. There are advocacy organizations, support groups, mental health professionals, and loved ones who are ready to support you and your child to the fullest.
On This Page
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Express Your Love And Support
People often remark on my social skills and wonder how I can be on the spectrum. I just laugh and remember the countless hours spent glued to my television mimicking the characters on the screen. My skills of echolalia and mimicry helped me pass for years until the fateful day when all my coping skills went away. The thing I most often wish was normal has always been my social skills. The social quirks I have of speaking whats on my mind and being completely oblivious are not always so charming to me. They can lead to depression, as I sometimes feel isolated in a room full of people who all seem to be speaking in a foreign code. The greatest thing a parent of a girl on the spectrum can do is to support her. Let her know how amazing she is and how much you believe in her. Most parents do love their children, but it is important to let them know verbally, because we dont always pick up on nonverbal cues. Brigid Rankowski
Accept Your Children For Who They Are Completely
Your child is different and has been given the gift of seeing and experiencing the world differently. No, its not all sunshine and rainbows- every gift is balanced out with a measure of hardship and impairment but, trust me, if your children receive the love, understanding, support, and guidance tailored to their needs, they will thrive.
Famous autistics include Einstein, Issac Newton, Mozart, da Vinci, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Picasso, Bach, Melville, Tesla, Twain, and Anthony Hopkins. I could list off a lot more, but you get my point. Many of the aforementioned trailblazers had severe struggles.
They are a square peg in a round-peg world. No amount of pushing or turning will make them a round peg.
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How Does Having A Child With Autism Affect Their Siblings
A child with autism can change a familys dynamic. Siblings of children with disabilities often grapple with stress and anxiety, in addition to emotions ranging from fear and guilt to embarrassment and resentment. They may try to hide those emotions from their parents so as not to be an additional burden.
Siblings can also experience parentification, as they may be expected to assume greater responsibilities and independence. They may feel neglected by their parents, who need to devote a tremendous amount of time to therapy and medical appointments and emotional energy into parenting. Additionally, siblings may lack the knowledge and information that parents have, which could result in fear for their sibling.
Nevertheless, siblings of children with autism can also come to embody countless positive traits, such as empathy, cooperation, tolerance, altruism, maturity, and responsibility.
Children On The Autism Spectrum Are Not Dumb
Kids with autism have the potential to be absolutely brilliant. Theyre also talented, philosophical, kind, and creative. This is something much of society fails to see, but in truth, the autistic mind is simply wired differently than those not on the Autism Spectrum. Hans Christian Andersen, Emily Dickinson, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Michelangelo, Mozart, and Sir Isaac Newton all are said to have exhibited autistic tendencies.
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Our Home Is Safety Proofed
Youre probably familiar with baby proofing a house. But while most families can take down the safety gates and doorknob locks once the child ages, families with children on the Autism Spectrum often have these items and more protecting their child from their homes inherent dangers. This is because many children on the Autism Spectrum are prone to behaviors that can bring about self injury.
Help During A Meltdown
We tend to expect a lot from children with autism. They thrive in environments that are calm, familiar, and supportive. But we often ask them to succeed in grocery stores, airports, and classrooms.
When children with autism are overwhelmed, they can experience meltdowns. Meltdowns can involve:
- Withdrawal. The child retreats to an inner world and stops talking altogether. The child may perform repetitive actions like rocking or hand flapping to self-soothe.
- Tantrums. The child cries, screams, stomps their feet, or curls into a ball.
Parents become adept at dealing with these episodes, but always ask if you can help. You could ask a restaurant to turn down the music, for example, while a worried mother attempts to calm her child.
You can also intervene directly. Experts suggest using a gentle voice and simple commands. Tell the child, Get up, and stand next to me. If the child cant respond, stay nearby and let the meltdown blow through. When the child seems calmer, try the commands.
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Work With The School And Be An Advocate For Your Childs Needs
Schooling will play an essential role in your childs development, as with any child. But of course there are added challenges involved here, and additional care and attention will be required. Ensure you and your childs school are signing off on the same page as frequently as possible, and if you believe something is not the way it should be, be an advocate for your child and dont stop until someone listens to you.
Celebrate Quirks And Talents
Strengths typically represent your ASD childs highest-functioning area. We now have a greater awareness of many famous and accomplished individuals in the arts and entertainment world who have ASD. Several of them areaward-winningg musicians and directors! Recognizing your childs talents and reinforcing them is key. Rather than just attending to areas of deficit, focus on your childs strengths. Bray loves music, numbers, and can put together a complex puzzle in record time. One helpful tip is to redirect repetitive play and interests into more socially acceptable behaviors. Who knows? That annoying quirk may be the one thing that transfers into the world of work, leading to a productive and fulfilling career.
Create A Safe Haven For An Autistic Child
A hostile environment stirs up autism spectrum disorderit hinders improvement. Perhaps, youre raising a child with autism, you need to make your home a haven. It isnt the time for nagging, quarreling, or violence in the family. Rather a time to practice activities that increase love bonds with a child.
A healthy relationship communicates the message of love and value to an autistic child. Oftentimes, victims of autism give in to self-harm. Therefore, ensure you keep out all harmful objects, substances, and appliances from their reach. Always monitor their movements.