Raising a child with autism is real work. And I would know because I’ve done it – and still doing it. If you are reading this, then the chances are that you have a child living with autism too.
Do I understand exactly how you feel? Not entirely.
What I can do, however, is share my experiences with you. Hopefully, you find this article helpful to create your own strategies to help your child.
Kyle was 2 when he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). And as would any parent, I was emotionally confused. I love my son, but I felt so worried for his future. I wondered if I knew enough or would be enough for his needs.
How would he cope in the world? Sadly, I feared he wouldn’t get to experience life as other children do. As though it couldn’t get any worse, I would also have to deal with the persistent and sometimes embarrassing questions from my family and friends. I didn’t know what I would do or how I would handle all that.
Is he gifted like some other children living with ASD? Does he sleep? What does he like eating? Is he good at mathematics?
Then, as he got older, the unusual public behavior started: running off, scratching his face, rocking back and forth, loudly repeating things he heard on TV. Most days, I felt more angry than depressed. And that is not unusual given I felt like I have embarrassed my family or even my son. I ask myself, am I doing anything right?
If I could cry, I would. You see, I’m the mom, and I have to be strong for the family. The truth is that raising a child with autism will get you frustrated. At times, it can be confusing and make you feel guilty.
So how did I manage the whole thing? Was it challenging?
Yes, it was. However, looking back, the steps we took were the most beautiful things we could have done.
How Can You Help a Child Living with Autism as a Parent?
- Learn more about autism
After the discovery, I took to studying. Of course, I knew autism as some level of a disability before Kyle was diagnosed but I was desperate to learn more. Perhaps you’re wondering why I did that. But think about it, isn’t it better to be well equipped on how to manage the autism symptoms?
You see, raising a child with autism is harder than I’d anticipated. Firstly, I had to go through 16-week behavior intervention training.
Luckily, I learned the strategies on how to help Kyle with his challenging behaviors. Some of these strategies are:
- We devised alternative communication methods. We taught him how to point to what he needs rather than crying or screaming.
- We had 20-30 minutes of planned communication and play every day. And it usually involved much social imitation, and it was amusing to both Kyle and us.
At the end of it, Kyle became less anxious around us. Also, he now copes much better with daily tasks. You would love to see him when he builds things with Legos – really exciting!
2. Glean from other’s experiences
Other than the knowledge we gained from the various training we attended. We also joined social support groups too.
Talking about autism with folks who have a bit of experience is excellent. It makes us calm. Besides, we get to see what more we could do for our Kyle.
3. Talking to your child about autism
We made a personal decision to talk to Kyle about his condition. We waited until we thought he could understand why his behaviors seem different to other people. So we told him when he was about 10. He cried, which was emotional. You have to forgive me; I cried too.
From all the outbursts of emotions, we achieved a significant feat. We were able to assist Kyle to understand that he does not have to be upset about who he is, but rather he just needs extra support. Besides, he’s not the only one.
4. Managing challenging behaviors in public
On challenging behaviors, we did our best to teach Kyle the dos and don’ts. Not just that, we showed him what a better reaction looks like. And we did that with videos and what we learned about social imitation. We didn’t stop there; signs and examples are posted around his room and around the house.
So what do you think? Were the strategies helpful? An extra tip, we took baby steps, and it was necessary. Planning too far ahead might not be best.
In the end, calmness and unconditional love are what any child needs.
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