If your child has recently gotten an autism diagnosis, you may be feeling overwhelmed and wondering where to even begin with helping them. An ASD diagnosis can feel frightening, particularly if you’re new to the world of autism and worried about whether you’ll be able to provide the tools your child needs to thrive. While children won’t “grow out of” this diagnosis, there are many treatments and tools to help a child overcome some developmental challenges. And while you’re caring for a child with autism, it’s also important to take time to care for yourself. Being emotionally healthy will equip you to be the parent your child needs, and these tips can help in making life a bit more manageable. This blog will be pulling from resources from psychiatrist Dr. Ted Hutman’s article “Helping Your Child With Autism Thrive.”
Kids who have ASD have a difficult time transferring information from one setting to another setting. For example, if a child is learning social skills in the therapist’s office, it may be challenging for her to take that information and apply it at school around other people. Coordinating with the child’s therapist and teachers will be key to having more consistency for your child. Find out what tools your child is learning so that you can also practice those at home. Find out if your therapist is able to come to your home and have several sessions there to encourage your child to transfer information from one place to another.
Follow the schedule
Children who have ASD thrive when they have a routine that is structured and predictable. They need consistency and are more likely to respond to you when they can predict what’s coming next. Set up a schedule for your child that the whole family can help with and support. Have a consistent time for meals, school, therapy, play time, and bedtime. Stick to this schedule whenever possible, and if you’ll need to make any changes then prepare your child for this ahead of time. A warning about a schedule change will make the transition go more smoothly.
Reward good behavior
Kids love to be rewarded for good behavior, and it reinforces the desire to follow the rules. Go out of your way to catch your child doing something good, and praise them for it. Reward even the little things like responding with sign language when you ask a question. Be specific and direct with what you’re rewarding so that your child knows what they’re doing well. Creating a sticker chart that tracks all of the times you’ve rewarded them for doing good can be a great reminder of the progress they’re making. Depending on their age it can be a motivator to keep practicing these behaviors.
Create a safety zone at homes
Make a place in your home for your child to feel safe, secure, and comforted. In moments when feeling overstimulated and needing to calm down, this can be a predictable place for them to be alone. You could also fill this part of the home with sensory items your child enjoys, whether this is a scented oil or a textured toy. Give these items to your child when she’s feeling calm to reinforce the association between the object and the feeling.
Being a parent is a really challenging role, and supporting a child struggling with autism is even more of a challenge. If you’d like support with the parenting challenges you’re facing and learning how to better support your child, you may find it helpful to talk with one of our therapists at Symmetry Counseling. You can contact Symmetry today by calling 312-578-9990 to get matched with one of our licensed counselors for individual and family therapy in Chicago.