There is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting an autistic child. Every autistic child is different, and every family has its own unique set of challenges and strengths. However, some general tips can be useful for all parents of autistic children. Here are eight of the most important ones.
Develop a Support System
Autistic children are at their best when they know what to expect. They thrive on repetition and routine, which makes it essential for them to know what’s coming next. Having a support system of family, friends, therapists, teachers, etc., can make life easier for an autistic child by providing him/her with a sense of security and stability. It will also make life easier for the parents by providing them with a much-needed break from time to time.
Developing a support system is beneficial for everyone involved, even children without disabilities because they will be better prepared when it’s their turn to look after an autistic child in the future. It is up to the parents, however, to make sure everyone involved knows what his or her role is.
Learn as Much as You Can
Autistic children are extremely intelligent. They just express their intelligence differently. While it is important for parents to treat their child as they would anyone else, it is equally important for them to learn what makes autism different from being “normal.” There are many guides on Autism Parenting that provide an insight into what it means to be autistic, how to handle the challenges one faces while parenting an autistic child. It’s important to remember that an autism diagnosis does not put limitations on a child’s potential.
Many things are common to both autistic children and children who are not on the spectrum – like playing, interacting with each other, storytelling, etc.
Create a Safe Environment
Just because an autistic child is on the spectrum, it does not mean he/she should be kept in a bubble. What it does mean, however, is that the child needs to feel safe and secure at all times while also learning that there are boundaries that need to be followed.
Autistic children may appear careless about their own safety because they lack an understanding of their surroundings, which is why parents need to make sure their child stays within the boundaries set by them. There are many ways in which this can be done. One way is to make use of technology like baby monitors and GPS trackers that can let parents know where their child is at all times.
Plan Ahead Of Time
Since autistic children rely heavily on routine and repetition, parents need to stay ahead of the game by planning. This will not only help them handle their child better but also provides a sense of reassurance for him/her. This does include daily routines like getting dressed and bathed before going to school, as well as planning vacations, birthday parties, and dinners with friends way ahead of time.
Ask other family members, friends, or caregivers to honor the schedule and routine as well, to provide the child with a sense of continuity no matter where he/she is.
Take Care Of Yourself
There is no doubt that parenting an autistic child is a trying experience for parents, but it can be a learning experience as well. It will test the limits of their patience and understanding, not to mention take a toll on their health.
Parents need to take care of themselves so they can remain healthy and strong enough to handle whatever comes their way. This means eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from family or friends during difficult times.
Be Careful What You Say In His/Her Presence
The inner world of autistic children is a mysterious place. While neurotypical people can make sense of their surroundings and communicate about them, autistic children cannot. They cannot understand sarcasm, lies, or slang to name a few examples. What this means for parents is that they have to be careful about what they say in front of their children because the latter cannot make the distinction between these forms of communication.
Therefore, speak to them about what they have done in the past tense instead of projecting into the future. They will understand better that way, and it’s also a good lesson for parents who might need to improve their communication skills.
Save For the Future
An autistic child’s financial needs can be high because he/she might require special care and therapy. Parents need to ensure that their child has a good education as well as a financially sound future before committing to things like buying a house or having children of their own.
Some of the ways to do this include living in a place where the cost of living is affordable, saving money regularly and investing it, and purchasing medical insurance.
Also, they can look into the various schemes and initiatives that can help them get a better education for their autistic children, for example, enroll in a special school. Many neurotypical schools have programs in place both for autistic students as well as those with special needs.
Allow the Child to Express Themselves
While it may be difficult for parents to understand what their child is trying to say or do, they must find a way to communicate with them so that there are no misunderstandings at all. It could be through pictures or sign language, but if the child appears frustrated because he/she can’t communicate effectively, parents should find a way to let them.
For example, if their child keeps hitting them because he/she wants something, the parent could use sign language to say “I don’t understand” and wait for further instructions. Or if he/she is trying to say something hard to figure out, like his/her name, the parent should take more time to understand and not move on too fast.
Hopefully, these tips will help parents create a stable and predictable routine for their children while also taking care of themselves. Most importantly, however, is that parents should allow their children to express themselves in whatever way possible. This communication is essential for building a strong relationship with them.