Managing a Young Child with Autism
Whether you are a parent or teacher unfamiliar with autism, getting acquainted with how to parent or teach can be difficult. While there are some intersections between “normal” parenting and parenting a child with autism, there are some significant differences too.
Parents and teachers of children with autism need to learn everything from crisis prevention intervention to more simple things like knowing how to introduce play into a child’s life. Here are some of the best tips for managing a child with autism.
Autism is something that can test your patience and resilience. Since every child is different, their autism will be different, meaning you can’t plan or even know what you will be dealing with. Therefore it is absolutely essential that you learn patience early on and quickly.
Every day can be different from the one before, and what worked yesterday might not work today. Getting frustrated and stressed will not only hurt you emotionally but won’t help the child in any way either.
Children with autism often have a very difficult time expressing emotion. It is vital that you create an environment where they can express emotion in some way or another. This can be everything from happiness to expressing anger and sadness.
Children with autism not only struggle with expressing emotion, but when they do express it, it isn’t necessarily in the healthiest way. What you need to do is find the balance between the two and ensure emotions can be expressed without your child hurting themselves or others.
Put Play on the Schedule
It is vital that play is part of your child’s everyday schedule. This doesn’t mean hours of playing video games, but something more stimulating like art, coloring, or reading. Play is also a good way to break up a sometimes “boring” day.
Children with autism will often get distracted quickly, meaning you can’t spend hour after hour doing schoolwork or homework. Allocating time to play allows them to reset and allows them to refocus on important work.
Children with autism have been shown to thrive in a structured environment. Having specific times for meals, when to do work, when they get to play etc., reduces stress and anxiety in the child.
You also need to sometimes let the child change the schedule, as you forcing them to stick to the schedule they once had, will only cause anger and anxiety.
Encourage Social Interactions
Social interactions are a must for children with autism as they can find it difficult to communicate and participate in fun or social situations. While you shouldn’t throw your child into the deep end, there are several small things you can do.
For example, when doing art, ask the child to pick what paper they want to draw on or which paints they want to use. Let them know how to ask as well; saying please and thank you is a basic skill but one some autistic children can struggle with.
Warn About Changes
Considering children with autism prefer a strict schedule, it is vital that you warn them about any changes to their routine early on. If something about their day is different from usual, you can’t spring it on them at the last minute.
While this is sometimes unavoidable, it is essential to let the child know when playtime is over or when they need to go somewhere, giving them time to prepare themselves for the change.
Acknowledge all Achievements
Children with autism, especially when they are younger, will struggle to know when or if they have achieved something important. Also, they will sometimes struggle to do or complete simple tasks and get frustrated.
Acknowledging these achievements and letting them know they have been successful in their task will teach them the “right” way to do something. While this thinking applies to children across the board, it is particularly important with autism as children often struggle much more.
Know When to Stop
While having a schedule and doing many things that help your child grow, it is essential to remember that you must still leave them to have alone time during the day. In this sense, children with autism are no different.
Children still want to play by themselves, watch a movie, and do whatever they want. Therefore, letting your child live their own life is part of the process of letting them grow.