Raising a child on the autism spectrum can be a wonderful, educational, and incredible journey for a parent. But, there’s no denying it also comes with challenges.
No doubt, parenting in general, is difficult. When you’re raising a child with autism, there are even more potential obstacles to overcome. Some potential challenges may include managing your own self-care and well-being, finding the right therapy and supports, advocating with schools to provide the appropriate accomodations to help your child succeed academically, to knowing how to help your child manage the ins and outs of daily life as they learn and grow.
Needless to say, all of this can feel overwhelming at times.
Thankfully, you’re not alone, and you don’t have to let the challenges get the best of you. If you’re raising a child on the spectrum and feeling defeated or overwhelmed, consider some of the following ideas that can benefit your whole family.
One of the best things you can do for yourself, your child, and your family is to educate yourself on autism. It’s called a spectrum for a reason. Not every child with autism will have the same challenges, weaknesses, or strengths.
Still, it’s important to understand the spectrum as much as you can, including where your child falls on it and some of the common signs they exhibit. The more educated you are, the more comfortable and confident you’ll be in helping them succeed. There are lots of resources on the internet and excellent books we highly recommend but these are also easily accessible through a simple Google search.
Focus On Their Strengths
A child with autism will face challenges no matter what. Instead of focusing on those uphill battles, focus on their strengths and the positives in their life. Find the joy, there is loads of joy to be found in raising a child on the spectrum. Also, like any other human, children with autism are likely to respond well to positive reinforcement, love, attention, and praise.
So, instead of only pointing out their struggles and trying to “fix” those challenges, let them know when they do something good in the moment. Express your pride. Praise them. Reward them in meaningful ways that they will enjoy. Not only can it boost their confidence, but it can help them to better understand the right kind of behavior.
Maintain a Routine & Structure
Kids (and adults) thrive when they have a comfortable routine and schedule in place. For children with autism, routine is even more important.
When someone on the spectrum knows their routine, they’ll feel more comfortable learning new things. Their routine can include time with you at home, time each day with teachers, and playtime. Don’t force everything to be educational — children learn by playing, too, so make sure you’re allowing your children to focus on their interests and the things they enjoy every day. It will provide comfort and security while they learn and grow.
Your routine should also include taking your child to different places each day, even if it’s just running errands. Bringing them along to the grocery store, the park, or the bank might seem mundane to you, but it’s teaching them how to feel comfortable with the world around them. Finally, neurodivergent children tend to be visual learners, so consider making visuals and picture schedules of routines and social stories so they can feel included and also feel safe that they understand the plan. Transitions can be hard for autistic individuals, so the visuals and social stories also help them prepare what to expect and to prepare for any changes in their routines.
Take Care of Yourself
You can’t pour from an empty cup. As the parent of a child on the spectrum, it’s easy to lose yourself in everything you want to do for your child. When you combine those desires for your child with the overwhelming emotions that can take hold, you’re likely to burn out quickly.
When that happens, you won’t be able to care for your family and relationships the way you want to. You also risk getting sick or developing mental health issues like anxiety or depression.
Make sure you’re taking time for yourself. Practice self-care, even if it means getting enough sleep, exercising, and spending time doing things you enjoy.
It’s also essential not to ignore your mental well-being. Talking to a therapist can help you work through the things you’re struggling with. You’ll also learn how to effectively manage stress, so you can fight back against anxiety, and learn parenting skills to be the best possible parent for your child on the spectrum. Feel free to reach out to us today for a free phone consultation to learn more about how we can be of support.