Are you feeling overwhelmed, frightened, and discouraged? You’re in good company. Parents across the country are getting their child’s diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and wondering what they can do and where they can turn for help.
There’s good reason experts tell you the best thing you can do is start treatment right away. Early intervention is the single most effective way to help your child develop better skills and reduce autism symptoms over his or her lifespan. You don’t even need to have an official diagnosis to get started. If you notice developmental delays in your baby, check with your pediatrician about government programs and in-home therapies you can start now.
Once you get the right mix of free government assistance and behavioral and developmental treatment programs, you still can’t sit back and rest. ASD is an ongoing struggle to help your child succeed at life. Learn all you can about the disorder and get involved in your child’s treatment. Then, here are three ways you can help make home life easier for you, your child, and your family.
Being consistent in the way you deal with your child and his or her routine helps immensely. You can take this order to be constant a step further and create consistency across environments for your child. Learn about what your child is doing in school and at therapy, then apply those same techniques and methods at home.
For instance, if your child learns sign language at school, make sure he or she can use it at home and in therapy. This teaches your child how to take one learned behavior and apply it to different situations, an important skill to master.
See if your team of professionals can provide therapy treatments in different environments to help your child learn to adapt and apply learned skills to new environments. For example, look for a behavioral therapy program that offers to take ASD children on outings or field trips. This helps them apply what they’ve learned to the wider world.
Next, schedule everything and make sure your child understands the schedule and what comes next. You can use pictures to show the next item on the schedule. Or consider how you could use video to show your child someone successfully moving from one activity to the next. You know your child best; use the way he/she learns and reacts to help them understand the schedule.
Finally, always reward good behavior. When you consistently find and reward your child for doing something good or positive, you set them up for success in other areas of life. Look for ways to praise them when they learn a new skill or act appropriately. The key is to be very specific about the behaviors you’re praising them for. The actual reward need not be much; it could be something as simple as a fun sticker they might enjoy.
Learn how to connect differently
A lot of how we connect with others in our lives is through verbal communication. We share stories, we explain our feelings, and we talk about what’s important. But you don’t always need to connect with your child through talk or touch. Learn how your child communicates non-verbally and then you can reciprocate.
You know when your child is tired, hungry, or he wants something. Be observant during those times and learn to recognize certain facial expressions, sounds, and even gestures they make. Most importantly, be aware of what’s going on behind a tantrum. It’s natural for individuals, adults and children alike, to feel upset when your feelings are ignored or misunderstood. You can help your child by learning what’s causing their frustration or their need to get your attention.
Is your child sensitive to touch, sound, taste, smell, or light? Or is he under-sensitive to these stimuli? When you figure out what sensory circumstances trigger your child’s tantrum or undesirable behavior, you can also learn what makes them respond positively to sensations.
Know what calms your child. What does he enjoy and what soothes him? Also understand what causes anxiety or stress. Does he get uncomfortable around social situations? The more you understand what moves your child to behave in certain ways, the better you can work to prevent or avoid those situations and behaviors.
Finally, always try to find what makes your child light up. What does he love to play or what makes him laugh? Life doesn’t always need to be about therapy and learning behaviors. Make time to play with your child without having an ulterior motive. Just like any child, play time is important and often an essential part of learning and development for children with ASD.
Customize your child’s treatment plan
How do you know where to start with so many treatment options available for children with ASD? You’re likely hearing different recommendations from parents and doctors, and teachers have their own set of recommendations for what’s best for your child. Remember, though, what works for one child won’t necessarily work for yours.
How can you make sure that your child gets the best treatment plan possible? You are your child’s best advocate, so work with the options you have available to customize your child’s treatment plan around the following non-negotiable options:
- Regardless of the treatment plan offered, it must come with a predictable schedule. Your child must know when and where treatment will be offered so he can prepare accordingly. Consistency and a clear schedule are essential.
- Make sure all activities are highly structured. This will capture your child’s attention better and have more positive results.
- Positively reinforce the behavior you want highlighted. Positive reinforcement is important for children with ASD to learn new behaviors and tasks.
- Your child should learn new tasks as a series of simple steps. Look for a treatment plan that focuses on teaching your child the steps necessary to accomplish a new behavior or task. For example, look for an ABA therapist who offers discrete trial training as part of their treatment program.
- Always find an analyst/therapist/provider who builds on your child’s particular interests. Don’t force your unique peg into a square hole.
- Make sure any treatment includes you and your spouse.
Know your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Use that knowledge to work with professionals to create a treatment program that targets the most problematic behaviors first. And make sure the treatment plan supports how your child learns best and includes activities they actually enjoy.
Finally, you need a treatment plan you can reinforce at home. Regardless of the therapies used, if you’re not reinforcing it at home and elsewhere, it’s just another confusing conundrum for your child to work through. The goal of any treatment program is to target your individual child and his or her symptoms and needs. You want to help them adapt and extend new learned behaviors to other environments. A single program or treatment plan is unlikely to accomplish it for you.
If you’re looking for a highly focused treatment plan that targets your child’s needs and builds on his strengths, Behaviors ABA therapy programs can help. Our highly trained and compassionate Board Certified Behavior Analysts and Applied Behavior Analysis therapists are uniquely qualified. We help you create a thorough and enriching treatment plan that includes your unique child, you and your spouse, and the rest of your family. Call us for a free consultation today to see how we can help you treat and mitigate a variety of symptoms.