Kids with autism need extra support from their parents to thrive. Life can be extremely difficult for kids on the spectrum and unlike other special needs, schools aren’t usually equipped to provide the right kind of help.
If you’re a parent, your child’s well-being is entirely your responsibility. Here are several ways to support your child in all aspects of life.
1. Try ABA therapy
One of the most popular therapies for autism is Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). As an evidence-based therapy, ABA is widely used to help people of all ages, including teens and adults.
If you’re hesitant about therapy because you don’t have time to travel to an office, you’ll be happy to know you don’t need to leave your house. For example, many organizations, like Golden Care Therapy in New Jersey, provide in-home ABA therapy. This allows you to skip the stress and time-consuming nature of getting to appointments.
Getting your child therapy at home also keeps them in a familiar environment and eliminates the unknowns that can trigger kids with autism. When your child feels comfortable during therapy, they’re more likely to benefit.
2. Learn to read cues for connection
With a little observation, you can learn your child’s cues that mean they want to connect and interact with you. For example, if your child is nonverbal, they might make a certain noise and/or physical gesture that means they want your attention.
Sometimes, kids with autism have meltdowns because their parents aren’t picking up on their cues for attention, or they’re being misunderstood. Learn how to read your child in all situations.
Not every meltdown has the same cause. Sometimes it’s from overstimulation, but other times it’s caused by not having their needs met.
3. Play with your child
Kids need to play to be happy and healthy, so make sure you create time for fun. Schedule playtime for your child whenever possible and find new and interesting ways to have fun. Take note of what makes your child laugh and engage, and use those things to help them come out of their shell.
You can get down on the floor and play with your child, dance with them, or play a simple game of hide-and-seek. If they have a friend they like, invite them over for a playdate. Use whatever works to keep them engaged and having fun.
4. Reduce sensory overload
Children on the autism spectrum are often hypersensitive to sensory input like sound, light, textures, smells, and flavors. This is known as sensory overload and happens when the brain can’t process input fast enough.
Pay close attention to what bothers your child and do your best to reduce those sources of overstimulation. For example, if household noises bother your child, create a space for them that eliminates those sounds. This can be a quiet nook in the den or a corner where they can put headphones on and listen to soothing music.
Eliminating your child’s sensory triggers is one of the best ways you can support them. To them, hypersensitivity feels like the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard for most people, but much worse. It’s more intense than just an annoying or unpleasant sensation.
5. Talk with your child’s teachers
It’s important to connect with your child’s teachers to ensure they get the support they need in the classroom. Their needs won’t always be obvious, and you’ll probably need to step in and explain how teachers can help your child best. This might involve allowing them to sit in the back of the classroom, have a toy in class they can stim with, or get extra help with lessons they struggle to understand.
6. Get your child into special classes
If possible, put your child in classes designed to specifically support kids with autism. Not all schools offer this, so you might need to consider moving your child to a different school or enrolling them in classes specifically designed for kids on the spectrum.
Depending on your situation, you might be able to bypass the rules for attendance based on your district. If you’re not sure, join a local support group for parents and find out what other families are doing.
You are your child’s best support system
Although it helps to have support from your child’s school, other parents, and therapists, you are your child’s primary source of support. It’s important to take the lead and do what you can to help your child develop the skills they need to function to the best of their ability.
Other people will help, but your support will be the foundation for their success.