While a diagnosis of autism can be a stressful and uncertain time for parents, it is important to recognize that many people who have autism often lead fulfilling, happy lives thanks to a variety of treatments available to autistic children, such as specialized schools and in-home tutors. If you do begin to see symptoms of autism spectrum disorders in your child, do not hesitate to start treatment. The earlier your child can get help, the greater their chance of treatment success.
- Don’t give up. It is normal to experience sadness and depression after receiving an autism diagnosis, but don't lose hope for your child. Many children with autism end up leading happy, fulfilling lives. Your child has an entire lifetime to learn and improve their skills, and staying positive and persistent is especially important, not just for your child, but for your own health as a caregiver.
- Learn about autism. An educated parent is an empowered parent. Learn as much as you can so you can make informed treatment decisions for your child.
- Learn how your child reacts to stimuli. What cause your child to behave disruptively? What seems to have a calming effect? Learning how your child responds to the world will be an incredibly valuable tool.
Find ways to connect nonverbally
Connecting with a child with autism can be challenging, but you don’t need to talk in order to communicate and bond. You communicate by the way you look at your child, the way you touch him or her, and by the tone of your voice and your body language. Your child is also communicating with you, even if he or she never speaks. You just need to learn the language.
- Use Smartstones® Touch™ to communicate nonverbally with your child. Smartstones® Touch™ lets you exchange simple messages with your child through easy to learn and customizable light, vibration, and sound patterns. Learn more about Smartstones at join.smartstones.co
- Look for nonverbal cues. If you are observant and aware, you can learn to pick up on the nonverbal cues that children with autism use to communicate. Pay attention to the kinds of sounds they make, their facial expressions, and the gestures they use when they’re tired, hungry, or want something.
- Figure out the need behind the outburst. It’s only natural to feel upset when you are misunderstood or ignored, and it’s no different for children with autism. When children with autism act out, it’s often because you’re not picking up on their nonverbal cues. Throwing a tantrum is their way communicating their frustration and getting your attention.
- Make time for fun. A child coping with autism is still a kid. For both children with autism and their parents, there needs to be more to life than therapy. Schedule playtime when your child is most alert and awake. Figure out ways to have fun together by thinking about the things that make your child smile, laugh, and come out of their shell. Your child is likely to enjoy these activities most if they don’t seem therapeutic or educational. There are tremendous benefits that result from your enjoyment of your child’s company and from your child’s enjoyment of spending unpressured time with you. Play is an essential part of learning and shouldn’t feel like work.
Provide structure and safety
For kids with autism, abrupt change can be both stressful and disruptive to treatment. Keeping the home and learning environments in sync is crucial to making meaningful progress in your child's treatment.
- Be consistent. Ensuring that treatment occurs consistently in multiple environments will help your child carry the lessons they learn over into many situations. Learn what your child's therapists do, and continue it at home.
- Stick to a schedule. A strict, consistent schedule seems to work best for most autistic children. Try to keep diversions to a minimum, plan meal and activity times, and tell your child if any schedule change must occur.
- Reward good behavior. Much more important that knowing when they have done something wrong, you should always reward your child when they do something that you consider a step in the right direction.
- Create a home safety zone. Creating a safe space where your child can be alone, relax, and be calm for part of the day can help your child cope with a number of stressors.
A good treatment plan...
- Provides regular reinforcement of behavior.
- Involves the parents.
- Builds on your child's interests.
- Offers a predictable schedule.
- Teaches tasks as a series of simple steps.
- Actively engages your child's attention in highly structured activities.
Choosing treatment options
Choosing the right treatment services for your child can be confusing, but remember to address all of your child's particular needs with treatment. Plans that address all of the child's needs are usually the most successful.
Common autism treatments include behavior therapy, speech-language therapy, play-based therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and nutritional therapy.
Don't forget to take care of yourself
You shouldn't have to ignore your own physical and mental health in order to facilate the health of the person you care for. Seeking help and support for yourself is just as important as caring for your child.
- Respite care – Respite care allows you to take a well-needed break from care by allowing another caregiver to take over for a short period of time (a couple hours, a day, or a week) so you can recover and return renewed.
- Support groups – A great way to meet other parents who are going through a similar experience, so you can share stories, support, and guidance.
- Individual or family counseling – Depending on your needs, seeing a therapist can offer a safe space to share your feelings openly and get guidance on how to cope with the stress of caregiving.
Communicate nonverbally with your child
This article was brought to you by Smartstones® Touch™.
Smartstones® Touch™ was designed to enable nonverbal communication between caregivers and the people they care for.
A revolutionary communication device that allows caregivers to locate, remind, and communicate with their kids through simple gestures and touch. Extend the connection you have with your child over a distance, by sending simple messages composed of light, vibration and sound. Comfort them, or reinforce good behavior with a message of praise. Let them know you're on your way, find them if they wander, and remind them to take medication.
To learn more, sign up for our email list below. We'll keep you updated on Smartstones® Touch™ until launch.