We all like to think of our children as having a rosy future. So, discovering that your child has special needs can come as a shock. We tend to see-saw between optimism and despair, seeking ways to help our children to cope and to do so without our intervention in future – because we won’t always be there for them. The first thing to remember is that the autism spectrum is big – very big – and no two children with this diagnosis are the same.
Try these interventions to cater to their strengths and help them to overcome their challenges.
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1. Look for Individualized, Specialist Programs
Large groups and one-size-fits-nobody interventions will not help your child to become all that he or she can be. Look for programs that focus on individual children. Action Behavior Centers offer an approach that is most likely to fit any child within the autism spectrum because their approach is tailored to each child’s specific needs. Whichever program you choose, find out how they will work with you as a parent. After all, it’s not only your child that faces challenges.
2. Reinforce Positive Behaviors and Celebrate Small Achievements
All children respond well to positive reinforcement. That means looking for positives and offering them praise and small rewards. Be sure they understand what they did and why you are pleased with their actions. Your approval, and the shared happiness that comes with recognizing even small achievements will encourage them to repeat positive behaviors and work towards more of the same. It also gives them the assurance that you approve of them, love them, and are proud of them.
3. Persevere, be Patient, and Care for Yourself Too
No matter how promising some therapies may seem, not everything will work for your child. And it’s not his or her fault. Give everything time – there are no instant results, but be ready to adapt your approach if you seem to be heading down a dead-end. Keep talking to teachers and therapists to ensure consistency between school, therapy, and home life. Whatever you do, don’t take it out on your child when the going gets tough.
If you feel tempted to let negativity get the better of you or feel worn to a shred, look for opportunities to rest and refresh yourself. An experienced carer, gently introduced into family routine, and able to build rapport with your child could give you some respite. If you reach breaking-point, that’s not just bad for you – it also makes you less helpful to your child. Don’t feel “selfish” if you find yourself needing some time off to be yourself.
4. Play is Therapy: Keep it Fun
Children learn a lot through play. Find activities that your child enjoys and become part of the playtime fun. There are several types of play, and each has a role in helping children to adjust to “real life.” By finding what your child loves to do, you could be helping them more than you’ll ever realize. At the same time, you have an opportunity to bond in a positive context and that connection will help your child to recognize and follow your guidance.
5. Think of the Future
Some children with autism spectrum disorders are able to live independent and productive lives when they reach adulthood, especially when they respond well to individual care and training. However, some will need lifelong support. Just as training your child to give them their best chance at independent living is important.
So is financial planning and, if necessary, planning for future care as adults when you are no longer there to help. Build the best safety-net you can, and start as early as possible.