As a parent, learning that your child has or might have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be a challenging experience. There will be a lot of thoughts and worry about the future and, at the same time, things that you must do to make sure that your child does not suffer. While we understand that an ASD diagnosis can seem very tough, advancements in this field have come a long way, which is why even a person who has been diagnosed with this condition can live a long & healthy life. Ahead, we have put forward five ways in which every parent can help a child who has been diagnosed with Autism.
If a child is showing any symptoms of ASD or related developmental delays, the best thing to do is to start treatment as early as possible. Never wait to see if your child will catch up later or outgrow the problem. An official diagnosis is also not necessary. The earlier children with Autism begin their treatment process, the better the outcomes. Early intervention is the fastest and most effective way to improve a child’s development and reduce the symptoms of Autism over time.
Consistency is critical in the life of a child with Autism. Children with this condition generally face difficulty applying what they have learned in one setting (like school or therapist’s office) to others like at home. For instance, a child might use sign language to communicate at school but not at home. Therefore, creating consistency in the learning environment is very important as it will help them reinforce the same behaviour at all places. An excellent way to do this is to understand from the therapist what the child is being taught and do the same at home or to teach a child the same things in different settings/places. It’s equally critical that the parent be consistent in interacting with the child and deal with challenging behaviours, like tantrums & bad behaviour.
Positive reinforcements are important for any child and more so for children with ASD, so try to reward all the things that they are doing right. Praise them for their excellent behaviour or when they learn a new skill quickly. Giving them a sticker or letting them play with a favourite toy are also excellent ways to reward appropriate behaviour.
If you haven’t already done so, join a parent group that supports AHD children. You will make invaluable connections to help you tackle challenging aspects of parenting a child with this condition. It is a good idea to find parents of children with your child’s level of Autism so that you can share the experience together, where you can learn about anything new and at the same time find support for the difficult moments.
Most children with ASD are hypersensitive to light, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Some children are “under-sensitive” to sensory stimuli on the other spectrum. It is crucial to determine what sights, sounds, smells, movements, and tactile sensations trigger your child’s “bad” or disruptive behaviours. What environment gets them to behave appropriately? What does your child find stressful, and what does he find calming? When you understand what affects your child, you’ll be better positioned to anticipate troubles, prevent situations that cause difficulties, and create successful experiences for your child and your family.
In conclusion, remember that it is highly critical that you take care of yourself and your health as a parent. Autism is a marathon, not a sprint – you owe it to yourself and your child to be whole, healthy, and happy, so make sure you do whatever it takes to get there. If you feel overwhelmed, ask for help and seek therapy if needed, as it provides you with a safe place to vent your feelings without hurting anyone.
Hirak Patel, Counselling Psychologist