Along with professional help, there are simple, everyday things that you can do to help a child on the spectrum to thrive.
1. Focus on the positives
Just like anyone else, children with autism spectrum disorder often respond well to positive reinforcement. That means when you praise them for the behaviours they’re doing well, it will make them (and you) feel good.
Be specific, so that they know exactly what you liked about their behaviour. Find ways to reward them, either with extra playtime or a small prize like a sticker.
Also, as you would with anyone — on the spectrum or not — prize your child for who he or she is. As a parent, loving your child for who they are is key.
2. Stay consistent and on schedule
People on the spectrum like routines. Make sure they get consistent guidance and interaction, so they can practice what they learn. This can make learning new skills and behaviours easier, and help them apply their knowledge in different situations. Talk to their teachers and therapists and try to align on a consistent set of techniques and methods of interaction so you can bring what they’re learning home.
3. Put play on the schedule
Finding activities that seem like pure fun, and not more education or therapy, may help your child open up and connect with you.
4. Give it time
You’ll likely try a lot of different techniques, treatments, and approaches as you figure out what’s best for your child. Stay positive and try not to get discouraged if they don’t respond well to a particular method.
5. Take your child along for everyday activities
If your child’s behaviour is unpredictable, you may feel like it’s easier not to expose them to certain situations. But when you take them on everyday errands like grocery shopping or a post office run, it may help them get them used to the world around them.
6. Get support
Whether online or face-to-face, support from other families, professionals, and friends can be a big help. Support groups can be a good way to share advice and information and to meet other parents dealing with similar challenges. Individual, marital, or family counselling can be helpful, too. Think about what might make your life a little easier, and ask for help.
7. Look into respite care
This is when another caregiver looks after your child for a period of time to give you a short break. You’ll need it, especially if your child has intense needs due to ASD. This can give you a chance to do things that restore your own health and that you enjoy, so that you come back home ready to help.
By Dr Adele Heyer, Townsville Paediatrics