Raising a child on the autistic spectrum is one of the hardest things a parent or carer will ever have to do.
Autism is an unseen disability which is why people see your child as unruly/spoil. If your child had a broken arm or leg its instantly visible as to the disability with autism your child looks like any other child. For this reason outside the home parents/carers have to deal with disapproving looks and sometime verbal comments such has “can’t you control your child” or “if he/she was mine I’d …..” , in turn this can lead to isolation because you worry about the reaction of others when you leave your home.
There are no treatments for autism, so all the challenges it brings such as behavioral and developmental problems fall largely on the family. We cannot change the underlying problems of an autistic child, but we can help reduce the levels of anxiety and abnormal behaviors therefore increasing the child’s ability to cope.
1. Triggers/warning signs: you will be able to sense these before they manifest into a total meltdown. Once you have identified these triggers you may be able to neutralise the situation.
2. Routine: Autistic children cope best in an environment where things are predictable, sudden changes to routine can cause outbursts. Have a visual timetable available (have look at our resources) for the day some children need it for every activity i.e. getup breakfast, brush teeth, wash, get dressed and so on. Others can cope with a loose timetable get up get dressed taxi school etc.
3. Changes: Prepare your child for changes; some will only need a reminder of the next event, i.e. first dinner, then computer. For others they will need more time to process the information, for this use a timer “when the sand reaches the bottom it’s time for dinner”.
4. Communication: Some children have little or no language skills and will communicate in a number of ways by pointing using symbols and sign language. If your child does talk don’t automatically assume that because they have good language skills that they understand what you require them to do. Sometimes it is helpful if you give the child prompts such has visual aids. If you have said it dinner time show them a symbol for dinner. This helps to reinforce your spoken words
5. Get support you are not alone: (you may feel like this when your child is first diagnosed). The internet is a great source of information for local support groups. They not only arrange coffee morning and outings but offer friendship and support. No one really understands better how you feel than another parent of a child with autism. I will add at this point we are parents to an autistic child and do understand.
Finally: enjoy your child, they are special and unique and with the right guidance, help and input the whole family will lead a full and enjoyable life.