How to Help Your Autistic Child

You can help your child with an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) cope with the world, or even with the house. Use these tools to assist your child to live in a healthy and growth-oriented environment. Here are some of those strategies for helping.

Steps

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    Maintain consistency. Your child may have a hard time understanding how the world works around him or her. Maintaining consistency helps your child to find routines, rituals (such as tooth brushing at a certain time or after a given event like eating), a concept of order in what is otherwise perceived as chaos. It will help both your child and you to write down a specific schedule of the day and then to follow it when possible. An example of a beginning routine (schedule*) outlined below

    • Wake up.
    • Use bathroom.
    • Wash hands.
    • Wash face.
    • Come downstairs
    • Get in chair.
    • Eat breakfast.
    • Put plate in sink when done eating.
    • Watch X educational, child oriented TV program.
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    Avoid making changes, especially in what your child perceives as his or her domain.

    • Cleaning a room is necessary. Changing the order of items on the bureau is not.
    • Change increases anxiety and fear that the order of things is falling apart.
    • When changes are necessary, involve your child in the process so it is not a complete surprise. If you move furniture, for example, try to engage your child in the process, or at least allow them to observe and be aware of the changes. Explaining the reason for the change will help them understand why this is happening and make it less scary.
    • When changes occur in things like clothing or food, trying to find similar items will be less traumatic for your child.
    • Some autistic people cannot handle rough textures, and best tolerate untreated/soft cotton. Exchange (or add) cotton for or to cotton items. Keep colors in the same family.
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    Understand fixations. This can include stimming behavior [1] (staring at turning wheels, making repeated noises, etc) and topical obsessions (Star Wars, whales, the weather). Members of the autism community believe that stifling these behaviors is controlling and dehumanizing.

    • Stimming is a natural behavior[2] that allows autistic people to express themselves and feel good. It helps prevent meltdowns, increases self-control, and enables better focus.[3] Be wary of therapists who wish to end stimming, as they are likely to be abusive.[4]
    • If your child stims in a harmful way, talk to a therapist (or a knowledgeable autistic person) about finding a substitute stim that fulfills the same need. For example, a girl who bites herself when stressed could bite a chewy bracelet instead.
    • Relating new information to the child’s passions may help the child be interested and engaged in learning. For example, if your child struggles with social skills and loves dinosaurs, she may enjoy books about dinosaur friends.
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    Speak with your child consistently and carefully.

    • Children with ASD often have the ability to speak, but do not understand the need to do so. Keep your child informed, while also increasing language exposure and teaching simply by talking with your child as you go about your day.
    • Speak as if you expect your child to answer (either verbally or nonverbally). All too often, parents talk about their child without talking with their child. This only increases the sense of not being a part of things for your child.
    • For young children, speak in clear and concrete language. Speak avoiding slang and expressions (it is raining cats and dogs), but do not talk down to your child, because (s)he can tell the difference. For older children, talk normally and respectfully, making it clear that you will be polite if your child is confused by a figure of speech or needs you to repeat something.
    • Don’t pressure your child to speak. Some autistic people are incapable of speaking, or they find it difficult and stressful. Allow your child to communicate through gestures, sign language, or by pointing to a picture board.
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    Use natural or full spectrum lighting whenever possible.

    • Children are often overwhelmed by fluorescent lighting as it strobes. Neurotypical children often cannot see this, but many autistic children can. If you see that your child looks distressed or that the lights are flickering, ask if the lights are being bothersome.
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    Consider noises in the environment. Children with ASD are most often sensitive to noise. Noises that neurotypicals can filter out can be confusing or even painful to an autistic person.

    • Buffer ‘rebound’ noise, or loud sounds in general by putting tapestries on walls, using soft fabrics on furniture that has some texture, adding room dividing decorative elements etc.
    • Be careful about competing sounds. The television will get turned up if people are speaking, which will cause people to speak louder and so forth. The more competing sounds, the more likely your child is to hear a loud mush of unintelligible sound only and become overwhelmed.
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    Ensure safety around your home. Interest in things that may be dangerous must be monitored, such as a fish tank with glass and electric components to heat or aerate the water. Autistic people are often very interested in how systems work.

    • Set boundaries and explain why the boundary is set.
    • If your child isn’t likely to be cautious, it may be better to move fish tanks  out of reach.
    • Offer to explore the fishtank or heater together, explaining it as best as you can. This allows you to monitor your child’s safety while sating your child’s curiosity.
    • If age-appropriate, show your child the wonders of the internet and all its diagrams.
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    Understand the use of visual stimuli. Many times autistic kids are visually oriented. Sometimes nonverbal children are able to communicate using sign language or by pointing to pictures in a special book put together to help them communicate. Even autistic kids who speak may benefit by making a visual chart for the schedule for the day. If you’re trying to teach your child how to do something it may help to make a picture chart. (Some autistic kids can even repeat verbal instructions word for word but still lack the ability to turn those instructions into actions in their head. Pictures may somehow help them to do that.)
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    Check up on the child’s health with their GP regularly. Some autistic children cannot tell you if their tummy hurts or if their ear aches. Other autistic children don’t understand the sensations their body is telling them and may not realize that they are sick. Keep an eye on your child’s behavior. If you sense something unusual in the child’s health, ask them how they are feeling (as sometimes that prompts them to think hard and realize something as wrong), and call your GP immediately if you believe they are ill.
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    Know the signs of sensory overload. Overload is when a person becomes overwhelmed by sensory stimuli and experiences a meltdown or a shutdown. Both cases may involve crying, covering ears, panicked stimming, and avoidant behavior.

    • Meltdowns may be characterized by screaming, crying, throwing oneself on the floor, etc. They resemble a tantrum in a neurotypical child. However, the child is unable to control her actions, unlike in a tantrum, which is thrown to produce a specific result. Autistic people often feel shame and regret after a meltdown.[5]
    • Shutdowns are characterized by withdrawal, distress, passivity, and loss of interest or ability to communicate.
    • To prevent overload, try to keep a quiet environment without too much movement or strong smells. Allow your child to exit if she becomes distressed by stimuli. Quiet rooms with activities like toys or colored pencils can be very useful for recovering from overload.
    • Occupational therapists can increase your child’s tolerance to stimuli through sensory integration therapy.
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    Have the attitude that you’re in it for the long haul. There will be days when your child does well and days when she melts down or loses skills. Don’t be discouraged. Sometimes finding out what isn’t working can be as beneficial in the long run as finding out what works so you know what to avoid.
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    Love your child. You are the model of what others will think and believe about your child. If you treat your child with kindness and respect, others will too, and your child will grow up feeling like a complete and worthwhile person. It is perfectly fine to explain to someone that your child is autistic, but never apologize for it and never make excuses. Your child is lovable, autism and all.

 

Via : Wikihow

2 Comments

  1. Julie Lachapelle December 11, 2015
  2. Peter Prestridge December 11, 2015

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