Raising a child is a hard work, but raising an autistic child can be a bit more challenging. There are some practices though that can make life easier for parents, and caregivers.
The other day a young mother came up to me while we were walking. She asked me what practical suggestions I could offer her to help her deal with her newly diagnosed son. She seemed very timid and nervous, yet eager to learn some new ideas to help her son. When we got to talking a little more, I could see myself in her 6 years ago, when Amin was first diagnosed with autism.
Here are some of my practices that helped me through life with autism. I would love to hear all of your input in this subject so we can learn from one another.
- Make sure your child has a well structured and predictable daily life. Stick to the schedule every day that you can, including weekends and holidays.
- If there is any changes in schedule, talk to your child about it, and prepare him for that particular change. If necessary use social stories, or videos to make him understand why and what kind of changes he will be facing. Try not to make too many changes in a short period of time.
- When you plan play dates or other activities, please keep it in mind that kids strive on structure, so plan their activities accordingly.
- Interference should be diminished or minimized as much as possible. For example if you are talking to your child trying to explain something, giving him direction, or instructing him; it is best if you do it while he is not watching TV or playing Wii. Try to make sure that you have your child’s full attention while you are communicating with him, giving him directions or instructions.
- Giving directions or instructions must be simple and straightforward, easily understandable. Give your child time to comprehend what you told him, and be patient and allow plenty of time so he may act upon your request.
- Consistency is important in everything you do with your child. Creating a uniformed life for an autistic child will help him to predict events easier, therefore they can initiate certain daily activities on their own without prompts. This can be a first step teaching them independence.
- Sometimes it is advisable to use flash cards to set up a schedule and help maintain consistency.
- Self calming techniques are very important to teach autistic kids. Also, create a “safe place” for them where they can go and rest if they become stressed or agitated. This place should different than one used for time out.
- Try to make play dates for your child, this way they can start building up their social skills. It is important to provide an autistic child with an opportunity to interact with neuro-typical children, so they can develop the proper way to act and react to different situations.
These are only a few practices that if we are consistent with them, we can create a stable and predictable environment for our autistic child. Details can not be given as advice, since every child and their needs are unique. Principles can be alike, yet the same practices can not always be applied to every autistic child. My advice to new parents with autistic children, do not stress out, you will learn along the way what really works for you and your child to create stability in your home.