More than 3.5 million Americans currently live with autism spectrum disorder and 1 in 68 children are born with a variation of it. Caring for children with autism is definitely a challenging task. It requires time, effort and patience. But most of all – love! Here are some tips for treating and supporting an autistic child.
Create a Supportive Environment
Creating a supportive and nourishing environment is very important. Minimize your child’s contact with extremely tense or uncomfortable people. Do not let siblings and other family members disturb your child as it may lead to an outburst. Consider a noise-free environment, as noise sensitivity has always been a part of the experience of autism. These kids are capable of amazing insights and creativity. Encourage their strengths and leave their vulnerabilities out of the picture. Communicate back in ways they can understand. If you really become a part of their world, they will feel secure and blossom more easily.
Adapt the Situation
Rather than feeling guilty that your child is different from other children, practice acceptance. Do not jump to conclusions about how life is going to be for your child from now on. Enjoy your kid’s special skills, celebrate small successes, and stop comparing your child to others. Your unconditional love and acceptance will help your little one more than anything else.
Reward Good Behavior
Autistic children often experience intense and admirable interests in certain areas that bring joy in their lives, and can be used as tools to develop new skills. Positive support can go a long way with children with autism. Praise them when they attempt new skills. Surprise them with their favorite toys, stickers or wristbands to inspire them learn even more.
Do not pressure your child to speak. Find other ways of expressing their needs, thoughts and feelings such as by showing signs and pictures. This can help them overcome frustration. Listen to all the ways he or she is trying to communicate. Be alert for body language or other signs that tell you something is wrong.
Help Them with Correct Treatment
Focus and build on what your child can do rather than what he or she can’t do. Help your little one with social interactions. They do best in structured play activities that have a clear beginning and end. There are also many treatment options including behavioral therapy, speech therapy, play-based therapy, physical therapy, occupational and nutritional therapy. They can help your child grow into a healthy and well-adjusted young member of society. Use the help of a therapist as it may not be possible to tackle everything at once.
Do Regular Health Check-ups
Remember that some autistic children cannot express their pain and some even don’t understand the sensations their body is telling them. They may not realize that they are sick. Always keep an eye on them. If you notice something unusual in their health, immediately consult your doctor.
Show Your Support
The diagnosis of autism is a life-changing event for the entire family. There are many ways you can help.
- It is no surprise that raising a child with autism can be expensive. Medical expenses, therapy sessions… all these costs can get unbearable for families. Start a fundraising campaign or use your own resources to meet some of the expenses.
- It is a fact that many children with autism have difficulty creating and maintaining friendships or engaging in conversations within a group of children. If you have a child who is the same age as your neighbor’s autistic child, invite them over. You may need to help facilitate the friendship between them.
- First and foremost, try to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Instead of confusing them with their condition, encourage their skills.
Understanding autism and how to interact with people with autism starts at a young age and there is no greater place than the classroom to start. Organize an awareness seminar in your local school. Display a bulletin board at the entrance with examples of celebrities with this spectrum disorder.
Throughout the year, and especially this April, there are hundreds of walks and marathons organized in support of autism. Participate to spread support and awareness. All participants should wear blue. Choose customized giveaway gifts that will delight everyone from beginners to veteran runners.
The primary symbol for autism – the puzzle piece – was created by Gerald Gasson, a board member for the National Autistic Society in London. It reflects the mystery of the autism spectrum. Handing out royal blue autism awareness puzzle items like hats, T-shirts and wristbands is an easy and original way to provide education and support for people who may not know much about that condition. These items are fully customizable online.