When you’ve got a child who is on the autism spectrum -- no matter where, on the sliding scale, they are -- life as a family means something different than the average family. If you are looking for some helpful advice and support to make coping easier all around, here are some tidbits to keep in mind even when things seem challenging and a little uncertain.
Your child is still your child
You know your child and love them deeply. Even if they are on the spectrum, it doesn’t mean that they are any less of a person -- you know that, of course -- but there are going to be days where frustration, confusion and fear may block that common sense out. Don’t forget to remind yourself of this, even when autism seems stronger as a condition than your child him/herself.
Routines are important
Children with autism prefer routines, as they find them calming and soothing. Not only are routines helpful for them to learn tips and tricks, but they’re also a built-in anti-anxiety support as well!
Set a schedule for mealtimes and bedtime (and stick to it): Schedules are a huge part of routines, especially for daily details such as meals and bedtimes. When your child knows what time everything happens, and they can expect it at each time (a certain routine for getting ready for bed, for example), it makes them feel calmer.
Plan certain activities on certain days to help your child understand the process of events: From laundry to hair cuts and beyond, schedule certain events on particular days so your child gets accustomed to them and their schedule. This makes them much easier to adapt to.
Give them warning when things need to change: If a mealtime has to be early or late, or you have an unplanned visit to somewhere, make sure you let your child know in advance. Children with autism do not do well with surprises, ever!
Therapies don’t have to be strict
When looking at therapy sessions and activities, you’ll be happy to learn that there aren’t really any rules!
Allow your child to choose between a few therapy options: Give your child the options and then talk to your child about what one they want to go with -- even if it’s not your first choice. Let them choose what feels best for them!
Choose therapies that your child enjoys: When choosing the therapies themselves, go with your little one’s preferences! If they love art find art-based therapies. Same goes for music, sports, reading, etc. The purpose of the therapies will be easier absorbed that way.
Free time is completely fine, too: Not every second of your child’s life has to be structured! Allow them free time to explore and enjoy their own toys, space and more.
What it all comes down to is that having a child with autism in your family doesn’t mean that everything has to change. Yes, some things will adapt over time and adjust. But your child is still your child and at the end of the day, they just want to know that they are loved.