There are many things parents can do to help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) overcome their challenges. But it’s also important to make sure you get the support you need. When you’re looking after a child with ASD, taking care of yourself is not a luxury or an act of selfishness—it’s a necessity. Being emotionally strong allows you to be the best parent you can be to your child in need. These parenting tips can help by making life with an autistic child easier.
f you’ve recently learned that your child has or might have autism spectrum disorder, you’re probably wondering and worrying about what comes next. No parent is ever prepared to hear that a child is anything other than happy and healthy, and an ASD diagnosis can be particularly frightening. You may be unsure about how to best help your child, or confused by conflicting treatment advice. Or you may have been told that ASD is an incurable, lifelong condition, leaving you concerned that nothing you do will make a difference.
While it is true that ASD is not something a person simply “grows out of,” there are many treatments that can help children acquire new skills and overcome a wide variety of developmental challenges. From free government services to in-home behavioral therapy and school-based programs, assistance is available to meet your child’s special needs. With the right treatment plan, and a lot of love and support, your child can learn, grow, and thrive.
Connecting with a child with ASD can be challenging, but you don’t need to talk—or even touch—in order to communicate and bond. You communicate by the way you look at your child, by the tone of your voice, your body language – and possibly the way you touch your child. Your child is also communicating with you, even if he or she never speaks. You just need to learn the language.
Look for nonverbal cues. If you are observant and aware, you can learn to pick up on the nonverbal cues that children with ASD use to communicate. Pay attention to the kinds of sounds they make, their facial expressions, and the gestures they use when they’re tired, hungry, or want something.
Figure out the motivation behind the tantrum. It’s only natural to feel upset when you are misunderstood or ignored, and it’s no different for children with ASD. When children with ASD act out, it’s often because you’re not picking up on their nonverbal cues. Throwing a tantrum is their way of communicating their frustration and getting your attention.
Make time for fun. A child coping with ASD is still a child. For both children with ASD and their parents, there needs to be more to life than therapy. Schedule playtime when your child is most alert and awake. Figure out ways to have fun together by thinking about the things that make your child smile, laugh, and come out of her/his shell. Your child is likely to enjoy these activities most if they don’t seem therapeutic or educational. There are tremendous benefits that result from your enjoyment of your child’s company and from your child’s enjoyment of spending unpressured time with you. Play is an essential part of learning for all children and shouldn’t feel like work.
Pay attention to your child’s sensory sensitivities. Many children with ASD are hypersensitive to light, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Some children with autism are “under-sensitive” to sensory stimuli. Figure out what sights, sounds, smells, movements, and tactile sensations trigger your kid’s “bad” or disruptive behaviors and what elicits a positive response. What does your child find stressful? Calming? Uncomfortable? Enjoyable? If you understand what affects your child, you’ll be better at troubleshooting problems, preventing situations that cause difficulties, and creating successful experiences.
Dealing with Autistic children: Technology provides the best support
What is the driving force behind the largest rehabilitation charitable institution for differently abled in India? Its firm belief and empathy! Mata Bhagwanti Chadha Niketan (MBCN) runs on its founder’s belief that any barrier comes first at the mental level; social, intellectual or physical barriers come later. Of all the different disabilities, the institution has an expert team to deal with autistic children. In MBCN there is a special section of children with autism to address special needs of 94 such children out of 1000 children with different disabilities.
Provide structure and safety
Learning all you can about autism and getting involved in treatment will go a long way toward helping your child. Additionally, the following tips will make daily home life easier for both you and your child with ASD:
Be consistent. Children with ASD have a hard time applying what they’ve learned in one setting (such as the therapist’s office or school) to others, including the home. For example, your child may use sign language at school to communicate, but never think to do so at home. Creating consistency in your child’s environment is the best way to reinforce learning. Find out what your child’s therapists are doing and continue their techniques at home. Explore the possibility of having therapy take place in more than one place in order to encourage your child to transfer what he or she has learned from one environment to another. It’s also important to be consistent in the way you interact with your child and deal with challenging behaviors.
Stick to a schedule. Children with ASD tend to do best when they have a highly-structured schedule or routine. Again, this goes back to the consistency they both need and crave. Set up a schedule for your child, with regular times for meals, therapy, school, and bedtime. Try to keep disruptions to this routine to a minimum. If there is an unavoidable schedule change, prepare your child for it in advance.
Reward good behavior. Positive reinforcement can go a long way with children with ASD, so make an effort to “catch them doing something good.” Praise them when they act appropriately or learn a new skill, being very specific about what behavior they’re being praised for. Also look for other ways to reward them for good behavior, such as giving them a sticker or letting them play with a favorite toy.
Create a home safety zone. Carve out a private space in your home where your child can relax, feel secure, and be safe. This will involve organizing and setting boundaries in ways your child can understand. Visual cues can be helpful (colored tape marking areas that are off limits, labeling items in the house with pictures). You may also need to safety proof the house, particularly if your child is prone to tantrums or other self-injurious behavior
What is Mata Bhagwanti Chadha Niketan ?
Mata Bhagwanti Chadha Niketan is one institution in India where rehabilitation of more than 1000 specially-abled children is undertaken. Spread over an area of 1 acre, this is a part of The Ponty Chadha Foundation under the philanthropic wing of the Wave Group. As its corporate social responsibility, the group trains the autistic children to develop social and communication skills in addition to academic and independent life skill training so that they can mingle with the society in a positive way. It is a charitable organization that is dedicated to take care of these children. It is the largest day-care special school.
The staff closely works for holistic and complete learning for them which aims at maximizing the potential in activities related to daily living, communication, social understanding, play and leisure. The training programmes start with an initial assessment of the child. Based on the child’s strengths, behaviours, learning patterns, and the teaching and learning methods best suited to him/her, an Individualized Educational Plan is made keeping in mind the child’s current needs as well as the parents’ immediate concerns.
The school believes that if people with autism are to have an opportunity to reach their maximum potential, the community of parents, siblings, other relatives, and professionals will have to continue to work together as a team.
Use of technology
The school uses latest assistive technology to improve expression in children with autism. The school has developed an android application VAAKYA which can be used as a very effective and useful tool for alternative augmentative communication especially for individuals with autism. It can be an asset to them to express themselves.
VAAKYA is an extremely diverse and flexible AAC application which does not rely on internet connectivity. The custom information added to the application such as user accounts/actions are stored within the application itself. This utilizes the phone’s own memory, thereby marginally increasing the size of the application depending on user accounts/actions created.
Multiple User Accounts: Educators/rehabilitation professionals, can add multiple students/patients to the application with unique actions and speech relate-able to each individual. This reduces cost as most applications available can register only one user on each device and would require multiple devices for different individuals.
Language Flexibility: Speech associated with actions can be recorded and played back in any language.
Image/Action flexibility: Images for actions can be replaced with existing images on your device or through your device camera directly. Additional actions can be added to each user account.
Flexibility of use: Parents/guardians can use the application differently by adding situations instead of users and images associated with each situation for the individual.
Integrated shopping portal
The school website, apart from providing quick and easy access to the essential information about the school, therapies, success stories, counselling, etc., now also includes an integrated shopping portal. This portal allows customers to buy hand-made products made by the special children of the school. These products are the outcome of years of vocational training which is given to the special children and the profit earned from the sale of these products is given to the differently abled person. With the help of this portal, people can admire work of these special children. The shopping menu consists of different product categories like wedding gifts, packaging items, office stationery, paper bags and other gift products. Product details like price, size and other specifications have been mentioned along with customers review as well. The prospective buyers can log on to the school’s website and select the products and add to the shopping cart using the simple user interface.
Inputs – Dr. Vandana Sharma, Director- Principal Mata Bhagwanti Chadha Niketan