As a parent, you’ve probably spent a lot of time thinking about your child’s future. Even more so if they have an autism spectrum disorder, or ASD diagnosis.
Apart from the medical care and therapies that you may line up to help your son or daughter, there are simple, everyday things that make a difference.
- Focus on the positive. Just like anyone else, children with autism spectrum disorder often respond well to positive reinforcement. That means when you praise them for the behaviors they’re doing well, it will make them (and you) feel good.
Be specific, so that they know exactly what you liked about their behavior. Find ways to reward them, either with extra playtime or a small prize like a sticker.
Also, as you would with anyone — on the spectrum or not — prize your child for who they are. As a parent, loving your child for who they are is key.
- Stay consistent and on schedule. People on the spectrum like routines. Make sure they get consistent guidance and interaction, so they can practice what they learn from therapy.
This can make learning new skills and behaviors easier and help them apply their knowledge in different situations. Talk to their teachers and therapists and try to align on a consistent set of techniques and methods of interaction so you can bring what they’re learning home.
- Put play on the schedule. Finding activities that seem like pure fun, and not more education or therapy, may help your child open up and connect with you.
- Give it time. You’ll likely try a lot of different techniques, treatments, and approaches as you figure out what’s best for your child. Stay positive and try not to get discouraged if they don’t respond well to a particular method.
- Take your child along for everyday activities. If your child’s behavior is unpredictable, you may feel like it’s easier not to expose them to certain situations. But when you take them on everyday errands like grocery shopping or a post office run, it may help them get them used to the world around them.
- Get support. Whether online or face-to-face, support from other families, professionals, and friends can be a big help. Create a village of friends and family who understand your child’s diagnosis. Friendships may be difficult, and your child will need support in maintaining those friendships. Support groups can be a good way to share advice and information and to meet other parents dealing with similar challenges. Individual, marital, or family counseling can be helpful, too. Think about what might make your life a little easier and ask for help.
- Look into respite care. This is when another caregiver looks after your child for a period of time to give you a short break. You’ll need it, especially if your child has intense needs due to ASD. This can give you a chance to do things that restore your own health and that you enjoy, so that you come back home ready to help.