How parents can manage their children with autism
After learning that your child has autism, you'll find yourself filling a variety of roles. At the same time, you'll get a lot of information from different sources, which can make you feel confused and frustrated. As parents, we often have to play more than one role, such as teacher, therapist, activity planner, and so on.
However, the most important role to play at this time is that of your child’s advocate. Being your child’s advocate will be a life-long journey that will require different skills depending on your child’s needs. It is best to contact a good early intervention centre that can guide you and provide you with strategies for helping your child. A good intervention provider will communicate with you openly and will have a team of experts to help you along the way. Here are some helpful tips for dealing with autistic children.
Children with autism, like everyone else, respond well to positive reinforcement. Reinforcing good behaviour or achieving goals, no matter how big or small, will motivate and encourage them. However, you must be specific when providing reinforcement so that they understand that their behaviour or actions at that time were correct. Reinforcement can be as simple as compliments like “good job for keeping your toys!” or “good job for eating your peas”. You can also give them tickles or access to their favourite toy or activity, but make sure you emphasise why you are doing so.
Vocal play to functional language
Begin by making the first sounds of your child's favourite items and activities. For example, when asked to blow bubbles, say “b” for “bubbles”, or “o” for "open the door". Start by having your child make single word request, then gradually progress to phrases and, eventually, sentences.
It is also critical to practise maintaining consistent eye contact when making requests. Large and immediate positive reinforcement will encourage your child to speak up more. Children require opportunities to express themselves and ask for what they want and need. If children are automatically given what we thought they wanted and needed without prior known requests, they will never feel the need to ask, because it will be provided before any requests are made. As a result, it is critical to provide opportunities and allow your child to make meaningful requests using gestures, sounds, and words to help them understand the value of making requests.
Strengthen eye contact
When giving something to your child, begin by holding it up to your face. Your child will look you in the eyes as he or she reaches out for it. Celebrate when your child looks at you, especially if it is unexpected, to encourage more of the same. You can do this by saying things like "I like the way you look at me!" or "nice looking!" and then clapping or giving a thumbs up to emphasise the praise if necessary. You can also lower yourself to your child’s eye level. This will reduce your child's stress and increase the likelihood that he or she will look at you.
Be consistent and give it time
Early intervention can help a child's development as a whole and make it easier for them to fit in socially over time. Children with autism develop at different rates and may take longer than others. The key to effective intervention is sticking to the programme and giving your child and the service provider enough time to grow together. Your child will grow tremendously with these two elements in place.
This article was written by Emuna House.
Emuna House is an inclusive, child-centred learning organisation. They provide programmes designed for both typical and atypical children from as young as 15 months to 14 years of age, particularly for children who are on the Autism Spectrum. These programmes focus on building and strengthening base skills to allow progress to mainstream schooling and to better participate in society. All their programmes have Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) therapy principles and techniques at their core. This approach enables them to discover and improve each child’s base skills, and repeat. Progress is made with gradual, but consistent, adaptation, fine-tuning, and goal-setting. They follow the progress of each child meticulously and encourage open communication between their team and their children’s families. They work together to provide a well-balanced and strong support system for the child as he or she learns to navigate the world.
Contact information: +65 9012 4694