Are you wondering how to support a child with autism spectrum disorder? Well, check out this article, which should give you a few pointers.
Suppose you’ve just found that your child has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or you believe they may be on the spectrum. In that case, you’re undoubtedly wondering about what to do next, and an ASD diagnosis can come with many questions. Hundreds of questions may be rushing through your mind. What can I do to help? How can I support my child? What is CPI training? Hopefully, in this article, we can answer some of these questions for you.
Autism spectrum disorder is a part of the neurodivergent spectrum and can present in many ways. Ultimately it will vary from person to person, and your child can be anywhere on that spectrum. ASD is not something to be “treated” or “cured” because being neurodivergent in any sense is not a bad thing. Getting a diagnosis should be seen as a positive because now you understand your child that bit more.
In the US, assistance is available to meet your child’s particular needs and help them learn, grow, and flourish in life, from free government services to school-based programs. In the past, it was a struggle in schools, but many are now better equipped to help.
Here are some helpful tips and advice that you may find beneficial. Remember, not every child’s autism is the same, so while some of these suggestions may help some children, they may not work for others.
The world can be a confusing and anxiety-inducing setting for autistic children; therefore, a predictable and stable routine may provide them with immense comfort. A routine or schedule can be made together, with both parent and child making suggestions to have a productive and fun day planned.
First, you must find a way to explain their daily schedule to them. Creating a visual timetable is a popular and successful approach for accomplishing this. This timetable could entail arranging images and simple phrases on a timeline in chronological sequence to depict the child’s daily activities and transitions. This visual assistance provides reassurance to the youngster while also making them feel they have ticked off everything from their to-do list.
Children with autism spectrum disorder, like everyone else, may respond well to positive reinforcement. Try giving compliments or rewards like stickers for having a great day or completing a task. Some tasks like reading together can become overwhelming if they feel they are being judged, so offering to read a sentence each and getting a sticker at the end of a chapter for example, could help them feel supported and make them want to read more.
Remember to also value your child for who they are, whether on the spectrum or not. It’s crucial to love your child for who they are as a member of your family.
Create a private space in your home for your child to unwind, feel comfortable, and feel secure; this will entail structuring and establishing boundaries in a manner that your child can comprehend. Visual cues, such as colored tape defining off-limits areas or labeling goods in the house with drawings, can be helpful.
Make the space calming and not overstimulating. Clashing colors, loud noises, and aggressive language should not be part of their safe space. A neurodivergent person may become overstimulated and might not have the communication skills or feel confident to explain this. Make sure they are involved in the design process and ask them what they would like in their safe space.
Support from other families, professionals, and friends can be beneficial, whether online or in person. Friendships can be tough to sustain, and your child may require assistance in doing so. Helping to contextualize their friendships and understand the other person’s perspective can help defuse arguments. Also, offering to lead projects or crafts with a clear ending can help them work together to achieve their goal and build their friendship.
Autism affects children’s communicative ability in different ways. Delay in language development, difficulty maintaining a conversation, and a lack of verbal and nonverbal communication are all examples of possible communication blocks. In addition, cognitive processing difficulties are common in people with autism. These have little to do with a child’s intelligence or capacity but how the brain interprets written or verbal information.
For example, they may frequently take what you say literally; thus, even the most common idioms should be avoided because they can possibly be misread. Many autistic children have difficulty reading social cues and nonverbal signs, and others may misinterpret sarcasm, irony, or humor. As a result, when we ask questions, we must allow enough time for all children to comprehend the question adequately.
We should avoid using figurative or abstract language in our directions and keep them plain. Things may still be lost in translation, so repeat instructions as needed and urge kids to repeat them back to you if they are able. Repeating yourself might sound frustrating, but once you get the hang of how your child understands the world, communicating will come easier to both of you.
We need to try to understand where their behaviors are coming from before we respond, in addition to ensuring that boundaries are in place. Children with autism, for example, may display challenging behaviors as a result of frustration, anxiety, or a lack of practical assistance. To deal with such behaviors, we must remain calm and seek to figure out why they occur.
Staying calm and trying to understand their side can help greatly if they experience a meltdown. This could be because they are overwhelmed, or because they feel like they can’t communicate verbally what they feel. Try asking them to draw a picture of what they feel, or make a feelings sheet with emojis so they can point to the one that fits how they feel.
CPI (crisis prevention institute) training first came about in the 1980s, with the goal of preventing and defusing aggressive and harmful behaviour. CPI is best described as nonverbal crisis intervention training, which can be applied to notice an at-risk individual, by managing situations and destructive behaviors, with both verbal and non-verbal skills.
Some people with ASD may struggle to communicate their emotions and so could resort to being aggressive towards themselves, objects, or other people. While you should never restrain a person, even if you feel it is the right choice, there may be other ways to prevent aggressive behaviors, and defuse them if they occur. This training could be applied at home to help them communicate safely and effectively.
CPI is also often utilized in schools and workplaces as a communication tool.
Many people with ASD can become fixated on something and create an obsession. It could be listening to the same song, watching the same film, or arts and crafts. Obsessions can come and go, but some can last a while. Asking about their obsessions and getting involved can encourage them to pursue their passions, and help you understand them better.
Stimming is often common in people with ASD. Stimming is a passive physical movement they need to help them concentrate, or to focus on while they process new information. It is important to not discourage stimming, as it is often a beneficial action for them. Fidget toys can be very helpful ways to stim. Items like fidget spinners, fidget cubes, stress balls, and small plushies are good examples. Some children may prefer things that feel soft, or things that make noise, so don’t be afraid to get them to try new toys until they find one that fits them.
The best way to offer support is to ask your child what they need. For example, some will thrive under a routine, while others would like more freedom in their day. Taking cues from them will help them feel in control of their diagnosis while building your bond. It’s important to remember that this is ultimately their diagnosis and their life, so they should feel support from their family, while also being safe to explore how they process it.
We hope this was helpful advice. While your child’s diagnosis may be hard to accept at first, it’s the start of a great journey of understanding for them. The world at large may not be very understanding of who they are, which makes it all the more important to support them where you can.