If you are a parent to an autistic child, you will probably be spending a lot of time thinking about how to plan for your child’s future. As you know, autism spectrum disorder affects your child’s social interaction, communication, and behavior, so you must help your child with all these skills.
It is also true that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting a child with autism, but experts have come up with some general strategies that can help your child thrive. From educating yourself on the subject to fostering independence, there are some proven ways to support your child with autism.
Read below to find out comprehensive details about each of these ways.
1. Educate Yourself
Education comes first before everything else if you really need to help your child with autism thrive. To educate yourself on the topic, you will need to read, listen, and learn. Read online and print resources about autism parenting to find out what the disorder is all about and how to cater to your autistic child’s needs.
There are multiple authority resources like Autism Parenting Magazine that can help you find useful parenting tips to help your child thrive. The next thing you will have to do is listen to the podcasts and lectures from qualified professionals and parents who know what it feels like to parent a child with autism.
The last thing on the list is to learn. This is where your own experience will come into play. Try to learn from the habits and behavior patterns of your child, and then adjust your behavior accordingly to their specific needs.
2. Early Intervention
Earlier intervention is really a life savior for your child with autism. The earlier you identify their developmental and behavioral needs, the better their chances of thriving will be. There are multiple ways you can schedule early intervention and address their needs.
The most important aspect is to consult a qualified professional and seek a diagnosis. You will need to do this as soon as you suspect your child may have autism. This diagnosis will help you and your healthcare specialist devise the right treatment and support plan for your child.
They can choose from multiple therapies available, including speech and language therapy, applied behavioral analysis, and occupational analysis. Each one of these therapies will help develop the skills they need for daily life.
3. Create a Structured Environment
You probably have already heard about creating a structured environment for your child with autism. But the question is, what does a structured environment look like, and how can it help your child? A structured environment consists of consistent routines throughout the day.
These consistent routines can help your child understand what to expect. To help them further, you can include visual schedules and charts to outline their daily routines. Write down their bedtime and mealtimes on a chart and display it in their room.
It will help them understand what is expected of them at a particular time. Also, clearly communicate house rules with them so they refrain from creating a mess.
4. Develop Communication Skills
Communication is probably the most important and difficult to develop skills in your child with autism. But don’t worry. It can be easier than it may sound. There are many ways that can help you improve your child’s communication and language.
Speech therapy and augmentative and alternative communication, for example, are two of the most important ways that can help your child with communication. Visual supports like picture cards and communication boards can also aid in developing communication skills in such children.
All you have to do is be patient and listen to your child. Give them enough time to express themselves and try to understand the signs they are giving.
5. Encourage Social Interaction
Children with autism are socially withdrawn, and as a parent, it is important to encourage social interaction in your child. One of the best ways to do this is to arrange playdates with peers and consider enrolling your child in skill groups. These groups will help them communicate, interact with other children, and build relationships.
To make their behavior more natural, it is advised to demonstrate social behavior in front of them and tell them to mimic it. While teaching them, be sure to teach them empathy so they can understand the emotions of others and empathize with them.
6. Address Sensory Sensitivities
Most children who are living with autism have different sensory activities. Try to point out and understand these sensitivities and then work towards properly addressing them. Remember that each sensitivity is because of a specific trigger.
Recognize that trigger or triggers that affect your child’s mental health and then work to minimize or eliminate them. These triggers can be noise, lights, or anything else that bothers them. Whenever they get subject to any of these triggers, try to give them sensory breaks and allow them to self-regulate.
To aid this self-regulation, you can provide them with sensory tools like fidget toys and noise-canceling headphones.
7. Foster Independence
Children with autism remain dependent on their parents and caregivers for their whole life. So, the best you can do is to teach them how to live independently. Start with teaching them life skills like dressing on their own, grooming, meal preparation, etc.
Tell them to take care of their basic needs, such as using the restroom and taking a bath. While teaching them this, make sure you use positive reinforcement and motivate your child’s efforts towards being independent. It will help them be better at what they are already doing and be independent at last.
8. Plan for the Future
As your child starts to grow, you will have to plan for their future goals. It can be anything ranging from their education to planning a career goal. Just be sure to start planning early, so your child can navigate adulthood successfully.
If you can’t think of anything reliable and rewarding, you can always consult with professional career counselors to establish future plans for your child.