"Even for parents of children that are not on the spectrum, there is no such thing as a normal child."- Quote by Violet Steven, mother of a child with ASD.
If you are a parent whose child has been diagnosed with ASD and have yet to begin therapy/counseling, then this blog is for you. We have put together some suggestions on how to raise a child with ASD as per their and your needs & situation.
1. If you feel your child is different or unique, don't delay the diagnosis or the therapy. Early intervention is the best. Consult your family physician or someone in your social circle for references to a great Autism center for diagnosis & engagement.
2. Ask questions and rely on the right sources for information regarding autism. The internet is filled with different blogs and articles that unfortunately can be overwhelming. Ask the diagnostician, autism specialist, developmental/child psychologists, BCBAs or parents directly about the autism diagnosis. Keep in mind that the Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis is a spectrum diagnosis, so not all individuals with the diagnosis will present with the same symptoms.
3. As a parent, you need to train and educate yourself to be the main resource on your child’s condition and so on. With time, figure out what triggers their maladaptive behaviors? What makes them stressed? How to calm them? What makes them happy? What kind of foods do they enjoy? Be an expert in their lives to simplify their lives and yours.
4. As parents and main caregivers, create a daily schedule for your child. Children thrive with routines because helps them to know what to expect. Any deviations from the routine may lead to stresses and "meltdowns" due to the child not knowing what to expect. Therefore, as much as possible ensure the same routine/schedule is followed daily and it is shared with caregivers, loved ones, and social connections who are involved in the life of a child with ASD.
5. Reinforcement is a key tool that you as parent can add to your parenting repertoire. Establish the contingency for your child so that they learn that appropriate behavior yields a reward. In most cases, naturally rewards will result in the child engaging in the behavior again such as if they use their words to request for juice for example, they will receive juice from the listener (i.e. parent). If you are teaching your child how to brush their teeth, you may say “Great job brushing your teeth!” Whatever you use to reinforce your child’s behavior should be something that they prefer and that increases the likelihood of the appropriate behavior occur again.
6. Look for non-verbal ways to connect and communicate. Please do remember your child is communicating all the time, it may just not be vocal. Start getting acquainted with your child's non-verbal cues.
7. Train yourself through various means to pay attention to their sensory needs. Many kids with ASD are very sensitive to light, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Whereas some kids could be under sensitive. Be alert on triggers for these reactions so remedial actions can be initiated.
8. Be active in your child’s treatment planning by communicating with the BCBA overseeing your child’s treatment. Ask questions to ensure that the treatment is developed according to your child’s specific needs.
9. Join a support group of parents whose children have ASD. These groups are a big source of help, comfort, and tips.
10. Seek professional help with stress and other factors, as parents. The more relaxed you are as a person and a parent, the easier it will be to respond to your child.