Learning that your child has Autism Spectrum Disorder can be daunting. You may be unsure of how to help your child, or what comes next after a diagnosis. As parents, there are a variety of ways you can support your child and help them thrive. Some of the things you can do are learn about autism, community outings, finding nonverbal ways to communicate, finding support groups, and acceptance.
The first thing you can do is learn about autism. There is constantly research being done on Autism Spectrum Disorder, and being informed about different treatment options and triggers for your child can make it easier to participate in treatment decisions. Nobody knows your child better than you, and knowing their triggers is an equally important part of helping them thrive. Knowing your child’s triggers can also help you help your child’s team modify treatment plans and create the least aversive environment possible.
Community outings are also very important for a child’s development and growth. Taking children out in the community can be difficult, but you will be teaching them that it is okay to try new things, and you will be there to support them through it if they are upset by something. It can be a fun way to see if there is something different your child likes that you may have never thought of, like looking at the fish tank at a library, or walking up and down the aisles at the grocery store. This is also a great way to connect with your child.
Finding nonverbal ways to connect with your child can be incredibly difficult, but it is important to remember that they are trying to communicate with you as well, whether it is through their body language, their eye contact, facial expressions, or physical gestures. Play is also a great nonverbal way to connect. Playing with your child is a great way to show them that you enjoy their company, and allow you to spend time with each other without pressure of demands being placed.
Another thing you can do as a parent is find help and support not only for your child, but for yourself as well. Having a support system that understands what you are going through can make a huge difference in the way that you see things. Joining an ASD support group can help reduce feelings of loneliness or isolation, and it is a great way to meet other families that are going through the same thing that you are. It is also a great way to find an extra emotional support factor, and to be one for others as well. Even seeking individual or family counseling can help open a dialogue without fear of judgement and can help work through some challenges that you may have faced.
Perhaps the most important thing is accepting your child exactly the way that they are, and loving them unconditionally. Celebrate small victories with your child, and enjoy their uniqueness. Focus on their strengths and support them, while being there for them through things that may be more challenging for them.