Every child is unique in their own way, but when you notice developmental delays or unusual behavior, you may go into a parental panic. The word “autism” gets thrown into the mix and you are overcome with fear. You aren’t alone. According to the CDC, approximately one in 44 children will be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, it is important to remember that a child with autism falls on a spectrum depending on the severity of symptoms and behaviors.
When your child is being evaluated, their doctor looks at three core behaviors: social interaction, verbal interactions, and repetitive behaviors. There are various screening tools and tests, but the doctor will also rely on your observations and their own. ASD can be diagnosed as early as 18 months, and early intervention is important so you can help your child develop their unique talents and tap into their potential. If your child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, take a deep breath and read on for tips presented by Collaborative for Children.
Help Your Child Cope with Anxiety
Autistic children tend to experience anxiety when put in situations that are outside of the regular routine, such as leaving the house, interacting with other children and adults, or even riding in the car. Determine what triggers the anxiety, and work with their doctor, therapist, and teacher to find positive methods of overcoming them. The transition in activities is often the biggest source of uneasiness, so you might create a visual schedule to help facilitate a smooth transition.
Relaxation techniques are helpful as well, such as deep breathing and meditation. There is also evidence that the use of CBD oil in children with autism can help reduce anxiety, lower problematic behaviors, and increase communication.
Make Your Home Sensory-Friendly
Sensory processing is a common problem for autistic children. According to Autism Speaks, “Sensory overload can feel like intense anxiety, a need to escape the situation or difficulty communicating. When the brain has to put all of its resources into sensory processing, it can shut off other functions, like speech, decision making and information processing.” For example, harsh lights, bright colors, or a particular texture can send a child into sensory overload, resulting in them withdrawing or not wanting to be touched. On the opposite end, a child can be under-responsive and seek out constant stimulation or not notice pain.
Your child’s home should be a safe space, so you may need to make some sensory modifications to ensure everyone is comfortable and happy. Use a neutral color palette in your home as opposed to intense, bright colors, and keep each room free of clutter, especially your child’s bedroom. Opt for natural lighting, and replace fluorescent lighting with LED lighting to reduce unsettling flickering and buzzing. Increasing natural lighting and adding plants to your home can also help reduce the stress of other family members. In addition, reducing clutter can alleviate some of your anxiety and remove some potential triggers from your child’s environment.
Keep in mind that if your child is overwhelmed or spots something that sparks their interest, wandering can become an issue. Install locks and alarms on doors/windows, and have your child wear an ID bracelet.
Whether it’s at home or at the playground, it’s important for kids with autism to learn to play with others. You can help by engaging your child in play. Even better, if a friend’s child or a school chum is patient and a good role model, ask that youngster to take on the role.
Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself
Your child’s ASD diagnosis brings plenty of change – doctor’s appointments, therapy, medication, home modifications, educational hurdles, and maintaining work/life balance. It’s a lot to deal with and it feels like it’s all being thrown at you at once. Focus on the goal you had long before an ASD diagnosis came about: raising your child.
When your child acts out (as many are prone to do), remind yourself that this is your child’s way of telling you that something is wrong. Spend time overcoming hurdles, but also focus on your child’s talents and quirks to foster passion and life-long interest.
Find Support Where You Can
The job of a parent gets refocused with a special-needs child, and it’s good to let it out and to promote self-care. There are autism support groups, where other parents and their experiences can provide a resource and others who understand what you’re going through.
Even with active engagement in a network of parents, you may need to talk to a therapist. Dealing with feelings of guilt associated with your child, or anxiety over knowing you won’t always be there for them, can be overwhelming at times. If scheduling an in-person session is too challenging, embrace the convenience of online therapists. With dedicated online platforms, you can choose a therapist, schedule an appointment according to your schedule, and even arrange a same-day appointment. With most insurance accepted, telehealth therapists are filling this growing need, and it’s easy to talk to someone when you need to.
Autism can be a scary word when it pertains to your child, but it just means your little one is unique. Raising an autistic child means making adjustments to daily life such as helping reduce anxiety or making your home sensory-friendly. There will be tough days, but the smiles, milestones, and accomplishments make it all worth it.
Collaborative for Children was started in 1987 as a resource to provide childcare and referral services for the greater Houston area. Find childcare in Houston.
Article written by Emma Grace Brown