10 Effective Tips For Raising A Child With Autism

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As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 54 children in the US is identified with autism (1). Various challenges associated with the autism spectrum disorder make parenting children with autism more demanding than other children. Parents have to keep themselves updated with new information, attend therapy sessions, and manage their lives. Juggling these multiple things can be exhausting at times. Despite giving their best, parents may sometimes struggle to cope.

If your child is identified with autism spectrum, here are a few effective tips that can make your journey of raising a child with autism smoother.

Is It Hard To Raise A Child With Autism?

Raising a child with autism spectrum disorder comes with a set of unique challenges that may make it hard for parents to manage.

Social and physical challenges

  • Children with autism may lack social skills. They do not understand non-verbal cues, avoid eye contact, and use inappropriate gestures and expressions that don’t match their words. They have an aversion to physical contact and may come across as aloof. Humor, irony, or sarcasm can be challenging for them to grasp. As a result, they find it difficult to handle social interactions or connect with parents and others.
  • Speech development may be delayed or absent (2). The communication problems can often make it difficult for parents to understand their child’s needs and emotions.
  • Some children with autism show self-harming behaviors such as biting, banging head, or scratching. They may wander off alone, risking their safety. Due to such tendencies, they may need constant attention and care.
  • Hypersensitivity is another problem amongst children with autism. Certain stimuli such as loud sounds may cause them to overreact and have a huge meltdown. They may not manage their emotions effectively, leading to disruptive behavior such as screaming and crying (2). Such emotional outbursts and public meltdowns can be distressing for parents.

Economic challenges

  • The therapy sessions, treatments, and admission to special schools to manage autism spectrum disorder require considerable financial investment (3) (4).
  • Depending on the severity of the condition, a parent may have to quit their job or limit their working hours, increasing the financial burden.
  • Insurance coverage may not be sufficient to cover all the medical expenses.

Emotional challenges

  • Parents of the children may experience an emotional ride after the ASD diagnosis of their child.
  • The pressure of managing the requirements of a special child may lead to feelings of frustration and helplessness.
  • Parents may worry about the future of the child with regards to education, independent living, and career opportunities.
  • The economic burden and the demands of caring for a special child can sometimes disrupt families due to excessive stress. This may affect the relationship between the parents and their relationship with other children. The other children may feel neglected because of the parents’ increased focus on the special child (3).

10 Tips For Raising A Child With Autism

Implementing a few simple strategies can make a positive difference in raising children with autism.

1. Maintain consistency

A child with autism may face difficulties in adapting to different situations. If they learn a certain skill in therapy or school, they may not apply it in a different scenario. A consistent environment can be helpful in skills reinforcement. Set some time aside every day to help your child practice the life skills learned in therapy sessions or school. This will help them understand the application in different scenarios. Establish a set time for everyday tasks, such as getting up, bathing, having meals, playing, and sleeping to help your child feel secure and adjust well (5).

2. Employ positive reinforcement

Instead of criticizing your child for doing the wrong thing, use words of encouragement when they do things right. Positive reinforcement can be beneficial for children with autism. Whenever they show good behavior or pick up a skill, appreciate them. You can appreciate them by praising or offering an appropriate reward. The reward can be something like a small toy or extra screen time, or playtime.

3. Find the right support

Finding the right support is important for coping with the demands of raising a special child. Connect with other parents of children with autism. Join autism support or therapy groups. Forming a support network will give you the required help when going gets tough. You can also uncover new information and learn from the experiences of others.

4. Include playtime in the routine

With all the therapies and extra school work, children with autism spectrum disorder may miss out on the important part of childhood—playtime. Make time for some fun in their routine. Include activities they enjoy and do them together. Such activities will help your child relax and open up. Playtime also provides a perfect opportunity to bond with your child.

5. Identify the triggers for bad behavior

Usually, when children with autism throw tantrums or act out, it means that something has triggered them. Instead of getting upset about it, understand the reason behind the meltdown by paying attention. They may be frustrated because you are unable to understand what they are trying to communicate. Or you might be misunderstanding them. Check their body language and expressions to identify non-verbal cues. Sometimes hypersensitivity to stimuli such as certain sounds, lights, or crowded places may cause disruptive behavior (2). Finding the cause can be useful in finding solutions that will help avoid blow-ups.

6. Avoid comparisons

Children with autism spectrum disorder display a wide range of symptoms, so every child is unique (6). The difficulties faced by each child with the autistic spectrum are different. Therefore, comparing your child to any other, even those with the spectrum, is unfair and pointless. Such comparisons will only hurt you and your child. Instead, identify their unique talents and encourage them. Focus on developing their strengths. Instead of fussing about their quirks, appreciate them. They should know that you love them for who they are.

7. Educate yourself

Being well-informed about autism spectrum disorder can help you cope with the challenges and provide the best care for your child. Find out everything you can about autism, such as the treatments, support groups, schools, and therapies. Speak to your child’s teachers and therapists to get a detailed understanding of your child’s progress. You can take the help of books or research about autism online. All the information will help you decide the best course of action for your child.

8. Create a secure and private home environment

Your home needs to be tailor-made to fit the requirements of your child. They should feel at ease when at home. To prepare for their episodes of hyper-stimulation, make sure your home has a specific location that can help them be calm. Design a space for them in soft colors with their favorite toys, pillows, and blankets. Children with autism need more home security compared to other children. Some children tend to wander off or indulge in self-harming behaviors (2). Hence, it is important to childproof your house. Add sturdy locks on the doors. Also, use easily discernible visual aids to mark forbidden areas and hazardous items.

9. Create opportunities for social interaction

Due to their problems with communication, children with autism can get isolated. While schools provide a social environment, special children may need an extra push. You can help your child connect with their friends by creating necessary opportunities. Organize regular play dates, encourage them to participate in social activities, and take a bus or carpool to school for social interactions. Friendship is crucial for mental health, educational accomplishments, and enhancing the quality of life of children with autism (7).

10. Make time for self-care

Raising a child with autism can become overwhelming and tiring at times. However, despite the busy schedule, it is crucial to take care of yourself. Being mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy is essential to cope with challenging situations. Take time for yourself and do what is necessary to be in the best of health. Don’t hesitate to seek help and support if required.

Following these effective tips can assist you in parenting a child with autism. Apart from using these strategies, make sure to have a treatment plan customized to the needs of your child. Keep in mind that your child is special and may need a longer time to develop the necessary skills, so be patient and calm when dealing with them. At times, if it is getting too stressful, take a break by handing over your duties to your partner or another caregiver for a little while.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Data & Statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
    https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
  2. Autism Spectrum Disorders; Helpguide’
    https://www.helpguide.org/articles/autism-learning-disabilities/autism-spectrum-disorders.htm
  3. Papadopoulos D. Mothers’ Experiences and Challenges Raising a Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Qualitative Study. Brain Sci. 2021;
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8001702/
  4. Autism Statistics and Facts; Autism Speaks;
    https://www.autismspeaks.org/autism-statistics-asd
  5. Raising a Child With Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Basics; Health Library; Beth Israel Lahey Health; Winchester Hospital;
    https://www.winchesterhospital.org/health-library/article?id=14322
  6. Autism Spectrum Disorder; Cleveland Clinic;
    https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/8855-autism
  7. Rodda A Estes A. Beyond Social Skills: Supporting Peer Relationships and Friendships for School-Aged Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Semin Speech Lang. 2018;
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29558772/
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Shivali Karande

Shivali holds a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy and a master’s in management. After working for nearly five years in the market research sector, she discovered her passion for writing and started freelancing. Her knowledge about medicines and biology, coupled with her experience in research, helps her write well-researched, informative, and evidence-based articles. For MomJunction, she writes articles on health and... more