Raising a child with autism can be challenging, but there are certain lifestyle changes you can make to help make things easier on both of you. Here’s a few.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently estimate that as of 2018, 1 in every 59 children have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.
That’s a 15% increase from 2016 alone.
If you are raising a child with autism, it can be confusing and frustrating knowing how best to care for them. These 10 lifestyle changes can set you on the right path to making things easier for both you and your child.
While there are varying degrees of autistic behaviors, and no child is the same, there are some basic commonalities between those who deal with autism.
These 10 lifestyle changes can assist you and your child, regardless of where they might be on the autism spectrum.
This is a lifestyle habit that is good for children everywhere, regardless of whether they struggle with autism.
When children, especially those diagnosed with ASD, know exactly what to expect in a day, they are able to feel secure and more certain about boundaries and what is expected of them. They also know what to expect from their caregivers.
There will always be outbursts, struggles, or days that just don’t go according to plan, but having a predictable schedule will help your child thrive.
Try to set a standard bedtime. Create a routine to help calm them.
This doesn’t have to be elaborate but can include simple things they can count on happening like brushing teeth, reading a book, singing a song, even saying the same phrases like “I love you, goodnight.”
For a child with autism to do well and enjoy school, it’s essential to choose a program and team of teachers who will balance working with your child and you as a parent.
This group of educators should also include everyone from your child’s principal, therapists (speech, occupational, etc.), and your school county autism specialist.
If necessary, fighting for an individualized education program for your child can greatly benefit their school experience. An IEP will help your child’s needs be met and the program can adapt to their changing needs and progress.
Children who fall on the autism spectrum are unable to make connections or communicate as their siblings, so it’s inevitable that they will be treated differently.
Sometimes as a parent, you may need to remind yourself that your treatment or reactions to behavior have to be relative to that child’s ability to understand and respond to those actions.
As siblings age, try to help them understand the reasons for possible differences in treatment between them. This may help siblings feel that they are not treated unfairly.
One of the major struggles of autism can be an inability to communicate or communicate well.
Depending on where your child falls on the spectrum, this can mean they have very limited words at all, or they simply cannot connect well with others verbally.
Whatever their degree of struggle, each child is quite individual. Learning to recognize their cues or ways of communicating will help prevent some breakdowns and relieve their anxiety and frustration at not being understood.
Try recording any little methods of communicating they may use such as placing your hand on objects they want, pointing, or others.
As with all these suggestions, working with your child’s therapists to determine boundaries and individual needs is best.
However, as a parent, it can become frustrating or even maddening at times to allow whatever “stimming” behavior your child prefers to continue. This can be especially hard if their behavior is accompanied by audible sounds or loud outbursts.
However, finding the right amount of time to allow for stimming behavior can often serve as a much-needed release or calming activity. Resist the urge to over-control or limit unnecessarily.
Raising a child with any degree of autism is a challenge for every parent. You may have days or weeks with progress and connection, only to regress and become discouraged.
It is common for parents to blame themselves or feel guilty for a child’s autistic behaviors. Be patient with yourself.
Remember that just like your child, you are learning how to communicate with them. You are learning right along with them, and their therapists, how to make life meaningful and happy for you and your child.
Keeping your temper can be challenging when an autistic child physically takes out their frustration on you, a spouse, a therapist, or a sibling. It can be difficult to feel like a victim and resist developing negative feelings toward a child.
In this situation, give yourself time to remember who the most frequent “victim” of your child’s behavior is. More often than not, it’s themselves.
When a child struggles with a disability, some parents may feel defensive or secretive about the challenges.
When you are proactive about teaching family, friends, neighbors, and others more about your child’s specific tendencies, your child and others will benefit.
Reduce your own stress and help your child be surrounded by a circle of understanding individuals by continuing to educate others.
You can’t pour from an empty cup. Whether it’s during the school day, when your child is with a trusted therapist or family member, make time for yourself.
Having a mental break from the rigors of raising your child can make a world of difference in your ability to love and connect.
Just as important as educating others, continuing to educate yourself is vital. Never stop learning about autism, your child’s specific needs or triggers, and seeking programs or therapists who can offer effective help.
Autism is challenging, but life can still be fulfilling and joyful.
Creating a happy lifestyle when raising a child with autism may seem daunting, but having the right tools and support will make all the difference.
Check out our post on mindfulness and meditation to see how you can attain more peace and less stress in your life.