Raising an Autistic Child
When a doctor finally diagnoses your child with autism, your entire world can feel like it’s been shaken. This developmental disorder is characterized by a common pattern of behaviors including social withdrawal, difficulty with verbal communication, and rigid or repetitive behaviors. According to the Autism Society, approximately one percent of the world population falls somewhere on the autism spectrum.
The prevalence in the United States seems to be even higher, with roughly one in 68 individuals being diagnosed.
If this life-changing verdict made you question yourself as a parent, here are four key things you need to know about raising an autistic child.
Your child will do better with routine.
One of the primary characteristics of autism is a need for stricter structure and predictability. Your child likely needs more than a general understanding of what happens each day. Even a small spontaneous event that seems like fun to you could send your child into a behavioral tailspin. These are sometimes recognized as “autism meltdowns.”
Many parents prefer to make the routine simple for their child to follow by using visual aids. You may want to make a schedule with pictures and Velcro on a clipboard so they can follow along throughout the day. Routine is predictable and safe for both you as the parent and for your child.
Your child may need less sensory input.
Many children with autism also have an extreme sensitivity to sensory input. Perhaps your son screams when he has to put on jeans. Maybe your daughter refuses to eat rice or panics when loud sounds surround her. Seemingly minor issues can actually be the result of overwhelming external stimuli.
Allowing your child to select the clothes he or she finds comfortable may be a better strategy for frazzled parents. If the environment tends to be the triggering factor, create a space in your home where your child can escape for just a little while. Weighted blankets, noise-canceling headphones, and a sensory cocoon swing may be enough to help them calm their jangled nerves.
Find encouraging professionals with a variety of skills.
You need to know that your team is entirely on your child’s side. There are many different approaches to treating a child with autism and assisting them in overcoming the main challenges associated with the developmental delay. Parents of autistic children need to actively search out the most knowledgeable professionals who maintain a realistic yet hopeful outlook for their child’s long-term success.
Families who have access to in-home services such as applied behavior analysis (ABA) rave about the long-term success. Not only does it provide more intensive services to their child but it also gives the parents a small respite during the evening. However, your child may benefit from a wide range of services including speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy depending on their specific deficits.
You will need to be your child’s biggest advocate.
From the very beginning, your role as a parent has always been to speak up for the best interests of your child. Honing these skills and finding your voice when talking with professionals is going to be even more crucial now. You may have to ask tough questions, stand firm on what you believe is best, and agree to disagree with suggestions posed by experts. You ultimately know your child best and have to live with the daily ramifications of treatment decisions.
Remember that research is going to be key to finding an approach that will offer the most benefit for your child with autism. Science is constantly uncovering new information and treatment approaches to help better the daily lives of families affected by autism. You will become a voracious reader in an attempt to do the very best for your child and family.
A lot of unknowns still exist regarding the autism diagnosis, including the etiology and the best treatment options. However, most families would still agree that these key tips to parenting a child with autism remain the same. Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the diagnosis. Just keep looking forward to the next treatment that’s right for your child.