Raising children on the autism spectrum can be very challenging. Over the years, we have discovered products that work to help meet the needs of our special children.
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Whether you get the diagnosis when your child is young or don’t discover it until your child is over, finding out that your child is on the autism spectrum can be frightening. There are so many differing opinions and no consensus on what the diagnosis could mean. Rest assured; it means nothing different for your child. Instead of thinking of the diagnosis as a life-changing label, think of it more as an explanation for why your child behaves differently or has challenges not typical for their age.
How Can I Help My Child?
There are so many things you can do to make your child’s life – and yours – easier. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, no person with the disorder experiences it the same way. Your children are perfect just they way they are. Still, there are certain traits that are common among most children with autism.
What Can I Do as a Parent if My Child Has Sensory Issues?
Many autistic children and adults struggle with sensory issues of some kind. It can be heightened in children, especially when doing something for the first time. When sensory input becomes overwhelming, your child may become overstimulated and may act out. Behaviors range from shutting down completely to reacting vocally to screaming and crying.
If your child has sensory issues, it might help to give them a safe place where they can get quiet time and decompress. If you’re in a situation (say, on a flight or at an event) where you cannot leave, over-the-ear headphones like these may help:
As your child gets older and finds their own ways to compensate when they are overstimulated, be supportive. If their chosen response is too disruptive, work with them to find something more appropriate.
What Can I Do If My Child Struggles with Executive Function?
Many people with autism will struggle with executive function Executive function are the skills we use to plan, organize, and follow through with certain tasks. As your child develops the need for more of these skills, things like calendars or planners can help, but it can also help to gently remind your child about things they’re supposed to do. Having a blatant visual reminder for things like appointments or assignments will make it easier for your child to stay on task and will make it less likely for such things to take them by surprise when they happen. If your child has a smartphone or an iPad, they can also make use of digital reminders or memo apps.
What Can I Do If My Child Is Averse to Abrupt Changes?
Many people on the spectrum struggle with abrupt change, whether it’s to their schedule or to their routines. Having a substitute teacher can be very stressful to the child; arbitrarily stopping somewhere to go to a store when they were expecting to go home may cause a meltdown for some kids.
As much as possible, telegraph to your child when something is going to be different from what they expected. If you normally pick them up after school and you come straight home, but this day you must go to the doctor, tell them. Tell them as soon as you know, remind them the day before, and the day of. Allow them to have as much routine as possible.
How Do I Help My Child with Autism to Not Feel So Isolated?
Autism can be an isolating disorder for a child, especially as they start going to school and their differences from their peers become more pronounced. This makes it crucial to encourage socialization and to be supportive when they find friends that treat them well. It may be helpful for your child to have extracurricular activities, should there be hobbies that they enjoy outside of their school. Many teens with autism will eventually find solace in online groups, usually based on shared interests. Socialization should be at the child’s discretion, however, as many autistic people have a lower social battery than people without, and being forced into social situations may cause burnout for them.
You Are Your Child’s Best Advocate
Children on the autism spectrum often benefit from extra support at school. These supports are not often readily given and require you to fight for every accommodation. You will most likely need a formal diagnosis on record so that you can request a 504 or IEP for your child. Individualized support can include things like allowing your child more time to respond to questions, to communicate in ways that are more comfortable for your child, to have more time to complete exams, or to have an aid to help them through their day. No two children will have the same needs, but the 504, and to a much greater extent, the IEP, will help ensure that your child’s needs can be met.
You will have moments of frustration. You will feel like you can’t handle it. You will feel like you are all alone in the world. You will have negative feelings. Do not feel bad for feeling that way – it can be very difficult to navigate all of the things that come with raising children on the autism spectrum.
The most important thing to do is listen to your child. Many of these things are meant as guidelines, not rules. Your child will most likely be able to signal to you if something isn’t going right. Patiently communicate with your child, and keep in mind this communication may not always be verbal. Find the things that work best to make them the most comfortable, because it’s possible that certain things that bother many autistic people won’t bother your child at all. While it may be difficult at times, if your child has the necessary accommodations, they can go on to live a happy and healthy life.