Help Your Child with ASD Thrive
No parent is ever prepared to hear anything apart from that their child is healthy and come under the ‘normal social criteria’. Therefore, when their child is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, especially, it can be very overwhelming. Parents can go through range of emotions from confusion what to do next, scared for the child’s future and above all how to make things right for their child. It is very important for parents to understand and remember that there is no medication which can alter the symptoms of ASD but there are enough remedial measures which can help the child learn new skills and overcome the deficits in their development. If the therapeutic interventions are provided to the child on time, the child may get a chance to learn and grow into an independent successful adult. Apart from getting the child in the right treatment plan, there are few very important things that parents can do, additionally, at home to help and support the child during this process.
1. Consistency: A child diagnosed with ASD has the need to follow patterns and routines in his/her day to day activities. When the child is learning a new skill with his/her therapist, it becomes extremely crucial that the skill is practiced outside the therapy session also be it at home or any other place. Parents should talk to the therapist and find out regularly what new skills the child is learning and implement the same at home. The more the child gets practice and consistency in his/her environment, would be the best way to reinforce a new learning. The therapist may help the parents also guiding them new ways to interact with the child and deal with challenging way keeping in mind the treatment plan.
2. Sticking to the Schedule: A child diagnosed with ASD tends to do best and be most comfortable when they have a structured schedule and routines. Parents should make sure that a routine is made for the child like same time for meals, for therapy sessions, play time and bed time. This structure is also very important when the child is learning a new skill and is also practicing at home. Too many changes would increase the child’s anxiety and discomfort. Therefore, maintaining the regular routines, new behavior skills should be introduced and practiced.
3. Rewarding good behavior: The strategy of positive reinforcement for desirable behavior always gives satisfactory results. It is the same with a child diagnosed with ASD. Parents should praise the child when they find him/her doing a desirable behavior and when the child is learning a new skill. A child diagnosed with ASD can have difficulty understanding multiple instructions, therefore parents should make is clear which specific behavior or skills the child is getting the praise for. It is always favorable if the praise is in a form of a reward like giving his/her favorite toy or something that they would really like to do.
4. Nonverbal ways to connect: Actions speak louder than words. This is especially true when it comes to children. ASD can impact the child’s language skills. Due to this deficit, they may become very sensitive to the nonverbal cues around him/her. Parents can communicate and connect with their child through the way they look towards the child, tone of the voice while speaking to them, body language while being around the child and physical gestures. It may seem otherwise, but a child diagnosed with ASD is also wants to connect with his/her parents. Parents just need to learn the new language!
5. Fun time: The diagnosis of ASD can be so distressing for the parents that they focus all their energy and time on finding remedies. In all this they sometimes miss what their child would be going through. A child diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder is still a child. The child would be trying to figure out and adjust to the different kind of experience he/she would be having. For them also this would be struggle. It very important for the child and the parents that he/she should get some time apart from therapies, do’s and don’ts. It may take some time, but parents should figure out what would make their child laugh, smile, enjoy and come out of his/her shell. This would relax the child and help build a bond with them.
6. Sensory sensitivity: ASD can make a child hypersensitive to light, sound, touch, taste and smell. The opposite ‘under – sensitive’ could also be true for some children. Sensory sensitivity can be one of the important factors which would be triggers disruptive behavior in the child. Parents should take notice and figure out which light, sound, touch, taste and smell elicit a positive and which elicit a negative response in the child. Figuring this out can help the parents remove a lot of distress the child may be going through unintentionally.
It’s very important for parents to understand and acknowledge that whatever treatment plan is made for the child, parental involvement is crucial for its implementation and vital for its success. Working together hand-in-hand with the therapist can help the child get the most of the intervention being provided to him/her.
Written By: -
Isha Singh - Clinical Psychologist
Director - Clinical Services, Ananya Child Development Centre.