4 Ways to Support a Child with Autism
When your child is diagnosed with autism, it can be difficult to know what to do with the news. It’s normal to feel scared, and to worry about how this will affect both your and your child’s life in the years to come.
But now that you understand what is happening to your child, you can start taking steps to help and support her. While you cannot cure autism or make it go away, you can make it as easy as possible for your child to cope with the world around her.
When you have autism, the world can be a confusing and overwhelming place. This leads to many children with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) experiencing intense feelings of anxiety. Common triggers include unstructured time, academic challenges, social situations, and sensory issues.
The first thing you can do to help your child is to identify her specific triggers. Many signs of anxiety are the same as “normal” ASD behaviors, like repetitive movements and pacing. This makes recognizing anxiety a challenge, but it’s not impossible.
Keep a close eye on your child’s behavior. You may notice a pattern that was not obvious before, like meltdowns happening more often in certain places. Identifying the source of her anxiety is a case of trial and error, but it can be a huge help once you know what is causing the problem and how to address it.
Additionally, you can take steps to reduce anxiety overall. For example, many parents have found that CBD oil provides relief from anxiety for their autistic children. If you want to try giving your child CBD, check with her doctor first. If you do choose to use CBD, try using gummies, since children with sensory issues might reject the taste and texture of the oil.
Many people with autism experience sensory processing issues. This means they are either easily overstimulated or under-stimulated through any of the senses. This can be a big source of anxiety and it can also be dangerous, limiting their response to threats.
According to Psychology Today, there are several interventions that can help with sensory difficulties. These range from simple things like using white noise to block distressing sounds to Sensory Integration Therapy, a form of occupational therapy. In the meantime, you can make life easier for your child by creating a sensory-friendly bedroom that encourages sensory interaction without overwhelming her.
Improving Social Skills
One of the hardest things about autism for parents is knowing that your child may struggle to interact and connect with people. For many kids, this is a result of struggling to understand social cues.
According to VeryWellHealth, children with autism often lack social thinking. This is the ability to read social situations and act in a way that is deemed appropriate. Several strategies can help them learn this, from social stories to instructional videos, and even simple feedback sessions with the support of the school.
Autism can sometimes lead children to act in dangerous ways. For instance, nearly half of children with ASD are prone to wandering, a behavior in which a child tends to leave safe environments. Drowning is a particularly big risk with wandering, since children with autism tend to be attracted to water.
You can’t personally supervise your child at all times, but there are things you can do to increase safety. These include giving your child a wearable form of identification with your contact details (or using a GPS locator), letting other adults in her life know about behaviors to watch out for, and taking precautions in your home. For example, keeping windows and doors locked so she can’t wander outside, and making sure she can’t climb the yard fence.
An autism diagnosis is a heavy blow for a family, but it is also an opportunity to start making changes. With the support of a doctor or therapist, you can pinpoint ways to help your child experience the world in a less scary way. It will take time and patience, but you will eventually find a routine that works for your family.
Our guest blogger, Steve Johnson co-created PublicHealthLibrary.org with a fellow pre-med student. The availability of accurate health facts, advice, and general answers is something Steve wants for all people, not just those in the health and medical field. He continues to spread trustworthy information and resources through the website, but also enjoys tennis and adding to his record collection in his spare time. His personal "top party tip" is to make sure and be organized.