Laugh with us, cry with us, and learn about AUTISM!

Friday, 7 June 2013

Guest Post - A Parent’s Guide to Caring for an Autistic Child

Today we have our first guest poster! Please enjoy.
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Autism is a lifelong disability that affects how your child communicates with other people and sees the world around them. The condition manifests itself in different ways in different children; some will be able to live a normal life, while others may need specialist support for life.
Despite being called a ‘hidden disability’, there are over 700,000 people in the UK with autism  meaning the condition touches the lives of 2.5 million people every day. If you’re a parent of an autistic child, you’ll want to provide the best possible care for your child.

Here is a parent’s guide to caring for an autistic child:
1. Provide a structured and safe environment
Structure and safety is extremely important for autistic children; making sure they’re in this kind of environment is one of the best ways to care for them. Structure, scheduling, and safety are three things that will make life easier for your child, and help keep them happy.
  • Keep care consistent – Children with autism rely heavily on routine, and will often struggle to adapt to a new setting. Make sure you, your carer, and staff at school all keep interaction, fun, and education consistent to help them thrive and deal with sometimes difficult changes to routine.
  • Work to a schedule – Autistic children react best to structure; consistent and routine care really helps them cope with day-to-day life. By sticking to a schedule – such as regular meal times and bedtimes – your child will be much happier; just make sure everyone else in your family sticks to this too.  If for any reason this needs to change, be sure to prepare your child in advance.
  • Reward good behaviour – Positive reinforcement is a great way to care for any child, but will really benefit those with autism. You should always be very specific about why you’re rewarding them, as this will help promote good behaviour and the learning of new skills.
  • Create a ‘safe zone’ at home – Autistic children need to feel safe, secure and relaxed in their home. Make sure your home is safety-proofed as appropriate, and you could even create different ‘zones’ in the home. This will help your child understand boundaries, and gives them somewhere to go to feel safe.
2. Connect on a nonverbal level
Children with autism can find verbal communication very difficult. However, by connecting on a nonverbal level – using sign language, body language, and just a few looks – can really help you connect and care for your little one.
  • Pay attention to heightened senses – Autistic children are often hypersensitive to things such as light, sounds and smells. Others can be ‘under sensitive’ to their senses. See which sights and sounds have a positive – and negative – effect on your child to help them feel safe and happy.
  • Look for nonverbal cues – When children feel like they’re misunderstood, they often throw a tantrum as it’s the only way they can think of getting your attention. Autistic kids are just the same. Learn to pick up on their nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, body language, and more to identify what it is they want.
  • Have fun with your child – Remember that your child is still a child, and needs to have fun with you to help ease their condition. Schedule in play time and choose activities that give them a chance to be confident and happy. This is a great escape from therapy, and will really help you bond with your child.
3. Find the right help and support
Children with autism often need a specialist level of care as the condition demands a lot of time and energy on your part. Asking for help isn't easy, but it isn't a sign of weakness; after all, you need to take care of yourself too.
  • Local support groups – Local support groups are the perfect place to find support. You can meet likeminded parents who are going through the same challenges as you. The emotional support will help you feel less isolated, and help you provide the best possible care for your child.
  • Respite care – Needing a break doesn't make you a bad parent. Autism is extremely challenging for a parent to deal with, and respite care is much needed. Whether you need a few hours to go shopping or a week away, respite care is the best way to help you feel refreshed and keep your child in a structured routine.
Caring for an autistic child is a challenge, but it is even more rewarding. As a parent, you will know the best ways to manage your child’s condition, but hopefully these tips will have helped you create an even better care package.

Core Assets are an International children’s organisation that help families in need of assistance. They specialise in support for disabled children, foster care and industry consultancy.

This is a guest post provided to Rubber Duckies and Spoons by a third party.  We did not write this, and do not necessarily share in the views of this post.  RD&S does not pay for guest posts, nor do we receive money for posting them to our blog.  All guest posts are tagged "Guest Post."  

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