A Practical Guide to Raising an Autistic Child

Have you received a recent autism diagnosis for your child? You’re likely experiencing a string of emotions, from love and hope to uncertainty and maybe even fear. You may ask yourself, how can you support your child’s social and emotional growth? What techniques can improve your child’s communication and reduce anxiety? 

How can you foster resilience and flexibility in your child’s daily life? These are the major questions we will try to answer through this blog. From building rapport and enhancing social skills to teaching calming techniques and fostering flexibility, these methods are designed to support both your child and your family.

What is  Autism 

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by differences in social interaction, communication, and behaviour. It is a spectrum of symptoms, meaning it affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. In any case, the first step is understanding what autism is and also what it isn’t. Autism is not a disease, but a condition where their brain is wired differently. Children on the spectrum may experience differences in:

  • Social communication: They may struggle with social cues, eye contact, or expressing emotions verbally.
  • Sensory processing: They may be oversensitive or under-sensitive to sights, sounds, smells, tastes, or touch.
  • Repetitive behaviours: They may find comfort in routines, repetitive actions, or specific interests.

It’s important to remember that autism is not a disability, but a different way of experiencing the world. Many autistic individuals possess remarkable strengths, like exceptional focus, detailed memories, and creative thinking.

Here are some ways you can help your child if he is diagnosed with autism.

Build a Good Rapport 

Building rapport with your child is crucial for effective communication and support. Rapport involves creating a connection based on trust and mutual understanding. Engage in child-led activities and practise active listening to show your child that their interests matter. This foundation of trust will make it easier to guide and support them in other areas.

If your child presents signs of Autism, claim your 20 minutes FREE consultation valued at $125 with our expert

Help Them Develop Better Social Awareness 

Many autistic children struggle with understanding social cues and perspectives, a concept known as Theory of Mind (ToM). To help your child develop ToM skills, spend time discussing social interactions and explaining different behaviours and emotions. Creating teachable moments from everyday interactions can help your child better understand and navigate social situations. 

Here are some ways to that will help them bridge the gap in their communication better:

  • Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC): Explore tools like picture cards, sign language, or speech-generating devices to help your child express themselves.
  • Focus on Nonverbal Cues: Pay attention to body language, facial expressions, and repetitive behaviours that may communicate needs or emotions.
  • Simple and Clear Language: Use short sentences, literal language, and avoid sarcasm.

Remember, communication is a two-way street. Be patient, celebrate progress, and focus on building a system that works for your child.

Help Them Improve Communication Skills 

Communication can be a challenge for autistic children, even those with advanced vocabularies. Focus on improving pragmatic, expressive, and receptive language skills. Encourage turn-taking in conversations, use clear and simple language, and check for comprehension regularly. Enhancing these skills will improve your child’s interactions and relationships with others.

Communicating with people may not be their strong suit. Therefore, here are some ways to help them develop social skills:

  • Start Small: Begin with one-on-one interactions in controlled environments. Gradually introduce more complex social situations.
  • Social Skills Groups: Look into enrolling your child in social skills groups where they can practise social interaction with peers who understand them.
  • Role-playing: Practise social scenarios at home to help your child feel prepared for real-world interactions.

Create A Calm Environment for them

Emotional dysregulation is common in autistic children and can lead to anxiety and outbursts. Teach your child calming strategies such as deep breathing, taking breaks, or using sensory tools. Identify triggers and intervene early to prevent meltdowns. 

Wearable technology that monitors physiological cues can also be helpful in managing emotional regulation.

The world can be an overwhelming place for autistic children. They may be hypersensitive to certain sights, sounds, smells, tastes, or textures. Here are ways to create a sensory-friendly environment:

  • Identify Triggers: Observe what overwhelms your child and make adjustments. This might involve dimming lights, providing noise-cancelling headphones, or offering calming fidget toys.
  • Create Predictable Routines: Structure and predictability can provide a sense of security. Develop routines for daily activities, transitions, and outings.
  • Safe Spaces: Designate a quiet area in the house where your child can retreat if they feel overwhelmed.
  • Coping Mechanisms: Teach your child healthy ways to make sense of and manage strong emotions. This might involve deep breathing exercises, taking a quiet break in their safe space, or engaging in calming activities like listening to music or playing with fidget toys.

Remember, sensory needs can change over time. Be flexible and adapt your strategies as needed.

Meltdowns and Tantrums: Responding with Empathy

If your child presents signs of Autism, claim your 20 minutes FREE consultation valued at $125 with our expert

Manage Their Meltdowns With Patience

Meltdowns and tantrums are not signs of bad behaviour; they are a way for your child to communicate distress. So when they have meltdowns and throw tantrums, make a clear distinction between them being emotionally dysregulated as opposed to spoiled. 

This will help you gain true empathy towards them and they will feel safe and calm with you. Here’s how to respond constructively:

  • Stay Calm: A calm parent can be a calming presence. Take deep breaths and avoid reacting in a harsh manner.
  • Identify the Cause: Was there a sensory overload? Was a routine disrupted? Try to understand the underlying reason for the outburst.
  • Provide Support: If your child is safe, sometimes offering quiet space is the best approach. Other times, a hug or gentle touch may be helpful.

Meltdowns are temporary. Once your child has calmed down, you can help them identify the trigger and develop coping strategies.

Fostering Flexibility

Autistic children often struggle with changes in routine, which can cause anxiety. Gradually introduce flexibility by reducing transition prompts and creating positive associations with unexpected changes. Rewarding your child for handling transitions well can encourage adaptability. Over time, these strategies can help your child become more comfortable with change.

Increase Autism Awareness 

Helping your child understand their autism can boost their self-awareness and confidence. Discuss their diagnosis in a positive light, focusing on their unique strengths and abilities. Encourage questions and open discussions about autism to foster a supportive and accepting environment. Highlighting the positive aspects of autism can help your child embrace their identity.

Network with Other Parents 

Connecting with other parents of autistic children can provide valuable support and advice. Join local or online support groups to share experiences and strategies. Organisations such as the Autism Society of America and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network offer resources and community connections. Building a support network can make your parenting journey easier and more rewarding.

Parenting an autistic child requires patience, understanding, and a willingness to adapt. By implementing these strategies, you can help your child develop essential skills and thrive. Building rapport, enhancing social and communication abilities, teaching calming techniques, fostering flexibility, and increasing autism awareness are all crucial steps. Additionally, networking with other parents can provide much-needed support. With the right approach, you can create a nurturing environment that allows your autistic child to reach their full potential.

Raising a child who is diagnosed with Autism is challenging and rewarding in its own way. You can help your child better by supporting your autistic child’s social and emotional growth by creating opportunities for social interactions and providing clear, consistent guidance on understanding social cues and emotions. 

Techniques such as active listening, role-playing, and visual aids can improve communication skills and reduce anxiety. To foster resilience and flexibility, gradually introduce changes to their routine, reward adaptive behaviours, and teach coping strategies like deep breathing and sensory activities. Providing a structured, predictable environment while encouraging small, manageable steps outside their comfort zone can help build these essential skills.

If you need some extra help with your child’s Autism, you should consider contacting the Tomatis® Method. We can help your child with emotional regulation, manage their oversensitivity to external stimuli and instil confidence within themselves. You also get to have a free 20 minute consultation with our expert, Françoise Nicoloff, who has more than 48 years of experience in the field.

Françoise Nicoloff

Official Representative of Tomatis Developpement SA in Australia, Asia and South Pacific, Director of the Australian Tomatis® Method, Registered Psychologist, Certified Tomatis® Consultant Senior, Tomatis® International Trainer and Speaker, Co-author of the Listening Journey Series, 45 Years of Experience, Neurodiversity Speaker

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