According to the World Health Organization, one in 160 children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This condition typically starts manifesting in childhood and continuing throughout adulthood. ASD is characterized by delays in language and social interaction that require life-long treatment and support.
If your child has recently been diagnosed with ASD, you’re probably worrying about what comes next. These parenting tips can make life easier for you and your child.
Develop a routine
Children with ASD need and crave consistency. They perform better when they have a highly-structured schedule or routine to follow.
Schedule your child’s meals, school, therapy, and bedtime. Avoid disruptions to this routine. If a change in schedule is unavoidable, advise your child ahead of time.
Creating consistency in different settings can make learning easier for your kid. For example, if your child uses sign language in school, try to practice it at home, too. This will improve knowledge retention and boost your child’s self-esteem.
Reward good behavior
Positive reinforcement is an incentive given to children for good behavior. For many children including those with ASD, positive feedback is an effective form of discipline. Acknowledging when your child is displaying good actions is as important as correcting their mistakes. This will motivate them to repeat good behavior in the future.
Positive reinforcement is provided right after the desired behavior has occurred. Some examples include verbal praise, tokens, food-related treats, or taking the time to do their preferred activities. Compliments and expressions of love can help your child be more confident and behave better.
Hone talents and strengths
People with ASD often display special abilities in art, math, logic, music, three-dimensional thinking and alternate problem solving. In fact, many award-winning musicians, visual artists, and directors have ASD. Autistic individuals also have extraordinary memory which enables them to retain facts for a long period of time.
Instead of solely focusing on your child’s deficits, celebrate his gifts. Provide opportunities for him to develop his talents, such as enrolling him in a music class or shopping for art materials together. These strengths may be his key to a thriving and fulfilling career in the future.
Seek professional help
Caring for a child with special needs can be challenging, but you don’t have to do everything on your own. There are many places you can turn to for advice and support.
Connecting with ASD support groups allows you to meet other families in similar situations. Parents can exchange parenting tips, share experiences, and provide each other emotional support. Being around other parents facing the same challenges as you are can reduce the constant stress you’re feeling.
Raising autistic children require patience and energy. The only way you can take care of them properly is to give yourself a break now and then. Hiring respite care can give you a break for a few days or even weeks. On the other hand, experienced live-in care can be a great help for older kids whose parents need to juggle long hours at work.
The first step to parenting a child with ASD is acceptance. There may be days when you feel helpless, overwhelmed or discouraged. Reduce judgment toward yourself and your kid, and instead, cultivate love, joy, and compassion.