How to Deal with Autism, Especially When It Hits Your Household
Approximately 1 in 59 children have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in the United States.
Parenting a child with autism spectrum disorder presents unique challenges. Just like with any child that has special needs, children on the autism spectrum disorder need the love and discipline of a parent.
So, how does one do this? How does a person parent a unique child with a mysterious disorder?
When Parents First See Autism Spectrum Disorder
As the first line of people who see a child develop, parents see symptoms of autism first. You may not notice it immediately, or you may be hyper-aware of it.
ASD symptoms begin before age three and then last the rest of that child's life. With therapy, some symptoms improve. These symptoms include:
- Normal development until ages 18-24 months and then a halt of gaining new skills.
- Regression of skills. Children lose the skills they once had, like talking.
- Not responding to their name by 12 months of age.
- Not pointing to objects to show interest by 14 months.
- Inability to play pretend games, such as feeding a doll.
- Avoiding eye contact and wanting to be alone.
- Inability to understand others' feelings or express their own feelings.
- Delayed speech and language skills
- Obsessive interests.
Receiving this diagnosis can temporarily paralyze a parent. They do not know where to begin or what to do next.
But therapies and support groups exist to support parents and children alike through the process of understanding the autism spectrum disorder.
Understanding the Spectrum
Before psychiatrists fully recognized the autism spectrum in 2013, each part of the spectrum received its own diagnosis. Three different ranges exist on the spectrum.
Asperger's rests on the mild end of the spectrum. Kids with Aspberger's are very intelligent and handle daily life well. They focus only on topics that interest them and discuss these topics nonstop.
As a result, they suffer from stunted social development.
Pervasive Developmental Disorder
PDD-NOS is further on the spectrum and thus more severe than Asperger's. Kids with PDD-NOS may have more difficulty communicating and learning but can still function in society with therapy.
Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
This rare disorder sits on the most severe end of the spectrum. Children develop normally but lose all social, language, and mental skills between the ages of 2 and 4 rather suddenly. Doctors may diagnose them with a seizure disorder as well.
Parenting a Child With Autism Spectrum Disorder
Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder have three responsibilities. They must first and foremost help their child. They need to also help themselves in the process and educate their community.
Help the Child
As much as you may want to curl into your own ball in the corner after receiving an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis for your child, you cannot do this. Mourn what you may have lost, and then start acting.
Begin by looking for the right therapy, the things you cannot offer your child. Look into this aba therapy center along with others near you.
Create a Friendly Environment
Help yourself and your child by getting out into the community. Make visiting the store or other parts of the community a regular part of your routine so your child understands the community outside his home and the community understands your child.
Maintain consistency as much as possible. Continue the same treatments at home that your child's therapist is doing in his or her office. Children, in general, crave consistency, so give that to your child.
Try to stick with routines as much as possible. As you see an interruption on the horizon, prepare your child.
Then, reward good behavior. We can easily see bad behavior and punish children. When you catch your child doing something good, give him small things like a sticker or the opportunity to play with a toy or positive words and encouragement.
Create a safe environment for your child by making them their own space. Mark it off with colorful tape, and then safety proof the rest of the house.
Stay Keen to NonVerbals
Know your child's nonverbal cues, and watch for them. Learn which sounds, facial expressions, and gestures indicate fatigue, hunger, or the desire for something. Look for the motivation behind the tantrum so you can stop the tantrum before it starts.
Enjoy your child. Every child has a personality, so spend time with your child, playing with him or her and having fun.
Stay sensitive to your child's sensitivities to light, sound, taste, touch, and smell. If your child is hypersensitive or under-sensitive, respond accordingly. Learn what triggers a positive response.
To help your child, you must help yourself. You have to take care of the factory.
So spend time educating yourself regarding autism and the spectrum. Ask other parents what books they'd recommend you read.
Join a parent group. Ask your school about special education PTA. If your school does not have one, start one.
Connect with parents of kids on the autism spectrum. Search out a mentor who can help you navigate the muddy waters of IEPs and the many tests that go into making sure your child receives an education.
Take a break as often as others offer. If someone offers to babysit, let them babysit. People would not offer if they did not want to help, so let them help.
Make a doctor's appointment for yourself so that you stay healthy. If you can stay healthy, then you can care well for your child.
Remember that caring for a child with a disability is a marathon and not a sprint. Prepare your body for the long haul.
Help Your Community
Become an advocate for those with autism by educating your community and participating in awareness campaigns. If your community has an autism walk, join it. If it does not, start one.
Succeeding as a parent means finding your tribe, and parents of autistic kids are your tribe.
Stay Strong and Parent On
With the right support, parenting a child with autism spectrum disorder can be the joy of your life.
Educate yourself and your community, and love that unique child.
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