Tips for Parenting A Child With ASD
I was at a mall last week when I saw Alex, my 9-year old neighbor holding his hands pressed against his ears and squirming in angst. I rushed to him quickly and saw his mother moving the crowd away from him, not speaking a word to him and forming a blockage around her son with her arms. After 15-20 minutes, he stood up, hugged his mother, and we departed to a cafe.
I was intrigued with what had happened, and we began chatting. She told me that Alex was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder a few years back, and what I witnessed was him getting overwhelmed by the things around him - the music ringing from various shops, bright lights beaming from each store and reflecting on the floor; a mix of aromas from different stores and the shoppers; the whiff of coffee, food, and junk; every face that passed by; every conversation. Everything, all at once. She told me a lot of things about Autism Spectrum Disorder, and we parted with her giving me the following advice - “If you encounter someone having a breakdown, don’t judge them – think ‘Time. Space. Imagine.’ instead. It can make a huge difference to someone like my son.”
It can be quite shocking and life-changing for parents to find out that their child has ASD. The Journal of Pediatrics had conducted and published a national survey of almost 62,000 mothers of children ages between 2-16, of which 364 were mothers of children ASD. In these findings, researchers have inferred that mothers of children with ASD reported having a close relationship with their children as that of the other mothers; and five times as likely to do so as mothers of children who had other developmental issues (excluding ASD).
Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) mostly are noticed before the age of three. It is a developmental disability marked by difficulty in social interaction. Such individuals are forced to deal with learning disabilities, cognitive impairment, language delays, repetitive or other perseverative behaviors, social communication barriers and a host of other issues - meaning that different people require different levels of support. Everyone with ASD learns and evolves. With the right level of early treatment support, there’s always hope and help. As a parent, it is always a unique joy to parent a child with ASD. Consider the following tips as you tackle the challenges and ease the development for your child and yourself:
Understand ASD - The person, and what to do.
Today, about one in 68 children have been diagnosed with ASD.
ASD is detected at a very early age in children, so experts suggest that early diagnosis and treatment are the important keys to help such children develop to their full potential. The main goal of such treatment is to advance the overall capacity of the child to function. Treatment strategies are custom-fit to each child’s needs utilizing evidence-based approaches because ASD symptoms and behaviors often take transition over time. A specialized treatment that addresses helping parents and improving communication, behavioral, social, and learning elements of a child’s life will be more yielding.
ASD is more common than most people think. Getting a timely and thorough assessment may be helpful as it aids such individuals (and their families, colleagues, teachers, and friends) to comprehend and understand why they may experience certain hardships and what they can do about them. Coming to the advice given earlier about ‘Time, Space, and Imagine’:
Give your child some time - it could mean several minutes. Stay calm and ask them if they are okay, but bear in mind that they would need more time to respond back than you might expect - to recover from information overload. Be patient. Be there.
Try creating a safe place as best as you can. Redirect people away from your child; try turning off loud music or bright lights around them - whatever you think could reduce the information intake and overload.
Step into your child’s shoes and imagine being overloaded with a lot of information that you cannot process at all. Rather than judging you, imagine someone being kind and putting you at ease with minimal efforts. A little understanding is all it takes.
In short, learn all that you can about ASD, so you understand the behaviors, symptoms, and the differences in medications or possible therapies.
Grow Your Social Network
Parenting a child with ASD is an emotional roller coaster. Lack of social interaction and communication between the parent and the child can make it an emotionally exhausting and stressful situation. Along with the help your child needs and gets, you are likely to have your own share of persistent worries regarding your child’s well-being and future. To build a strong social circle, for yourself and your child, you can resort to various types of supports:
Social: A friend or colleague you like being with and who can both share your happiness and help you survive woes; online forums and chat groups dedicated to ASD;
Emotional: A family member or an acquaintance who is a confidante and whom you can trust with your most personal concerns;
Informational/Emergency: Your child's teachers, doctor, therapists, or others you can ask for advice on major decisions; and
Practical: A neighbor or close friend who will help you out without any hitch
The more you know about ASD and the more resolute your support network is, the more empowered you will feel, knowing that your child can get the help he or she deserves.
Acceptance Accept the fact that you are going to try things that might or might not work. The miraculous thing you read about in a forum or chat group about treating ASD may not do much for your child. Every child has different needs and while some children respond well to certain treatments, it doesn't necessarily imply that it would work for your child too. Bitter truth: Some therapy/cures/medication will be duds. Your best bet would be to stick to only those treatment options that are based on evidence and supported by research. The earlier you accept, the stronger will you acquire.
You just don’t know what or how your child is going to respond to treatment. Make sure you first consult an expert to know your bounds. Don’t define your child by his or her issues— the challenges faced by them can be addressed together gradually, carefully, and deliberately.
Assess Your Child’s Needs for Medications
Talk to your doctor about the best treatments and goals for educational services, so you are aware of all the resources that your child can benefit from. Additionally, it is important to become familiar with public policies, so you can be your child's advocate in gaining the best care and education possible.
There is no one right way to cater to your child’s needs, and it all boils down to learning about autism as much as you can and growing along with your child, so, know that you’re doing a great job at parenting your child.