5 Ways to Spend Time with Autistic Children
As parent or guardian of an autistic child, the more you can learn about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the better. In particular, we’d suggest improving your understanding of what to expect at different ages with a child that has ASD, and the options you have for various treatments. Such preparation can help tremendously as you support your children and their growth. Additionally, the following tips can make your daily home life easier for both you and your child.
1. Try to identify what triggers a meltdown
Changes in an environment, an unfamiliar situation, or even confusion can trigger a strong reaction from autistic children. So, it’s important to take notes when meltdowns occur. Were there changes in a particular routine? Was it something new? The more you can learn and observe about the potential triggers, the more you can potentially avoid upsetting the child. In addition, when you interact with your child, make sure to use clear and concise language as well. Autistic children often don’t understand sarcasm or metaphors, which can leave them confused and frustrated as well.
2. Play is critical to their development.
Parents of ASD children can get so caught up in treatments and therapy that it becomes an entire focus. But a good reminder: A child coping with autism is still a child. Hence play, as it is for any child, is critical for them and their development. Make sure to schedule playtime regularly, ideally when your child is most alert and awake. Also be natural and make them laugh – not because it’s part of a therapy but to organically figure out activities they enjoy and will help them be themselves and relax. Play and enjoyment is an essential part of learning for all children. Just don’t make it out to be work.
Similarly, reward them for good behavior. Positive reinforcement can go a long way with ASD children, so praise them when they act appropriately or learn a new skill. You can also look for other ways to reward them for good behavior, such as letting them play with a favorite toy during playtime or just giving them a thumbs up.
3. Create structure, safety and consistency
As mentioned above, children with ASD tend to behave best when they have structure, as they need consistency in their lives. Set up a schedule for everything you do – meals, therapy, school, play, bedtime. The more you can keep such disruptions to the schedule at a minimum the better. If you have to change up for any reason, let your child know in advance. Change is hard for anyone but it’s often hardest on those with ASD.
In line with that, be consistent with your child. For example, if they’re learning something at school or in therapy, reinforce it at home. Even if it means you having to dig into more of what’s going on there. The more you can create that consistency the better you’ll reinforce the learning that needs to happen. That’s because it encourages your ASD child to transfer what he or she has learned from one circumstance to another. It’s also important to be consistent when dealing with any challenging behaviors the child might have.
In terms of safety, make sure home is their oasis – a place for them to relax, feel secure, and safe. Carve out a private space just for them, helping them see the way to set boundaries. Use indirect or soft visual lighting in their space and make sure noise levels aren’t too loud. If you anticipate a loud noise – lawnmower, vacuum cleaner, etc. – make sure to let them know ahead of time. Visual cues also help in terms of marking certain dangerous areas off-limits, or color marking areas with tape or pictures. If your child poses a danger to himself or herself, make sure to also safety proof the house as you would for any small child.
4. Research autism treatments.
The good part about ASD is that there are a number of potential treatments for children with varying behaviors. The bad part is that there are almost too many. Autism therapies can vary wildly, focusing on everything from sensory integration and motor skill problems to reducing problematic behaviors and building communication and social skills. Others programs deal with emotional issues and even food sensitivities.
We recommend talking to autism treatment experts, and asking lots of questions. After doing the research, you should also have some sense of what therapies can help ease the challenges faced by your child in particular. Keep in mind, it may not be just one therapy either. Every child “on the spectrum” is unique and the goal of the treatment(s) should be aimed at those specific symptoms and needs he or she demonstrates. Most common autism treatments:
- Behavior therapy
- Nutritional therapy
- Speech-language therapy
- Play-based therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
As we state above, keeping a routing is particularly important and the program should be designed in a way that can be sustained on a consistent basis. If it seems too much, it probably is. So, tackle any issues as you go. It’s not important to do everything all at once. Remember, your ASD child is still a child and has needs that go beyond what therapy can help alleviate.
5. Get a Medical ID in case of emergencies.
At LIFEID, we’re especially sensitive to situations that can occur where autistic children are unable to speak for themselves in the case of an emergency. That’s why when they go to school or find themselves away from you (on a field trip, etc.), make sure they carry a medical ID with them. A simple bracelet that gives background on their medical conditions, prescriptions, or history can prove the difference between life and death when emergency responders come on the scene. If one of them scans the medical ID code, you’ll also immediately get a notification, including the exact location so you can get to your child right away.
We hope this article has been helpful. For more on autism, including researching treatment options and behaviors, here are a few additional resources:
- Supporting Children with Autism (Kaplan)
- Helping Your Child with Autism Thrive (HelpGuide.org)
- Interacting with a Child Who Has Autism Spectrum Disorder (University of Rochester Medical Center)
At LIFEID, our goal is keep you and your loved ones healthy and safe. That’s why we recommend one of our medical ID bracelets, and Apple Watch sleeves, which can speak for you in the case of any emergency. With LIFEID you get your own free user dashboard and connect your medical profile to one of our LIFEID products. LIFEIDs let professionals know if you’re at greater risk for particular diseases or conditions, should you be incapacitated or unconscious.