Building a support network when dealing with ASD
Having to deal with a child’s Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis is not an easy task. This is partly due to the nature of ASD - it is a spectrum of disorders, which means there is no specific treatment or therapy that will work on every child diagnosed. Each individual is unique and exhibits specific behaviours and thus has to be approached with a unique treatment plan. While some exhibit sociability issues or hyperactivity, others may experience speech difficulties.
The process of dealing with ASD can become overwhelming at times. It is important that parents maintain a positive perspective by arming themselves with science-based knowledge as well as support from both professionals and relatives. A support network, can in fact prove invaluable to parents coping with ASD in their lives.
A support network includes extended family, friends and sometimes clinicians, therapists and other parents. A support group is particularly important during the initial stages of the diagnosis. It may come in the form of suggestions or acceptance. It motivates you for better.
Why does one need a “support network”?
A support network serves as a forum to discuss all ASD related issues. For parents, the group can be a source of comfort as the people in the network listen to them and understand their journey with ASD. Having strong support helps parents to perceive things positively, which can impact their child in a better way. Since the group discusses many aspects, it may benefit others in the form of practical support like babysitting, financial support, food preparation, washing or just emotional support.
Parents can build their own ‘support team’ by identifying the areas you need help with and then connecting with people who are ready to help.
Build a network of friends and family
The first step in building a support network of family and friends is to enable them to understand what ASD is and how it impacts the child. Keep them educated about the child’s likes and dislikes and the best way to interact with the child. When in a group, parents can discuss and share their experiences to pave the way for a positive outcome for all the children. And to achieve this, friends and families in the support group should work together to develop an understanding of how best to support the child.
Studies reveal that families with a good support network have a higher likelihood of improving the lives of their children and enabling positive outcomes.
Be prepared for the responses.
ASD requires one to see the world with a different perspective. So, don’t expect everyone to understand everything the first time they listen to you. Some may be instantly supportive, but others may need time to adapt. Always focus on the good! Concentrate on building a relationship with those who support. And for the ones that can’t immediately offer support, give them time to understand the situation.
Network with other parents
Having a network of parents (of children with ASD) can be a great advantage because it serves as a forum to discuss children’s behavior, their development strategies and latest research on the topic. It doesn’t always have to be an in-person group of parent meetings or get togethers. You can also choose to become a member of an online group or community of parents that shares their experiences and suggestions. This is very helpful to those parents whose children have been recently diagnosed with ASD.
The group should be open to discussing all the issues related to a child’s development. It should be educational and should provide latest information on therapies for various behaviors of children with ASD.
Apart from the family and parents’ network, professional assistance is always recommended. Having professionals like Occupational Therapists or Speech therapists in your communities will help to gain proper knowledge of how various therapies work. Parents will also have the opportunity to explore various subjects related to the spectrum. Though children with ASD are widely given a clinical treatment, most of the training begins at home.
To provide them the right environment at home, parents should first understand their child and his/her special needs. And accordingly, his/her daily routine is scheduled. It is also important to ensure that you are obtaining inputs from experts at every step you choose, since it involves the child’s behavior. Discuss on what is best for them, if it is right to do so and consider all their suggestions. Engaging with experts also allows parents to learn about advanced therapies, specialized therapies, children programs and various other activities that help to promote the development of the child.