When a child is placed in the arms of their parents, hopes and dreams for the child’s future begin to form. We want what is best for our children in all areas of life. As parents, we want to teach our children the skills they need in a supportive and nurturing environment with the hopes that they will not only learn and grow, but also thrive.
When a child is diagnosed with autism, a parent may wonder: What’s next? What does this mean for my child? They may begin to question what they can incorporate into their child’s daily routine that will provide safety, structure and guidance, so that they can live their best life.
Reevaluate your child’s educational needs yearly.
“All children, typical or not, need different things to thrive,” says Kristin Tennyson, head of school at Linden Grove School in Cincinnati. “Each year, as parents, we should reevaluate what our child’s current needs are and what they will need to be successful for the upcoming school year. This might mean extra or less support, a change in program, additional tutoring, helping to facilitate playdates and more. No matter where your child attends school, they should always be challenged and they should always be thriving academically, socially and therapeutically.”
Take your child on errands with you.
For some parents, the idea of running errands with their children can seem less than appealing, and this can be especially true if your child has unpredictable behaviors. Don’t let this stop you from taking them along. Consider putting one or two outings a month on the calendar. You don’t have to do every grocery trip together, but allowing your child to periodically join you will help them have a better understanding of what goes on in the world.
Strive for independence.
Anyone who has gone through teaching their child to tie a shoe knows it is much quicker, and less painful, to just do it for them. As parents, when we are constantly doing things for our children, we are not allowing them the privilege of learning how to do things for themselves. It may take a while to get there, but when your child accomplishes tasks on their own, they will feel empowered and ready to face future obstacles.
Create a consistent routine.
Structure and consistency can be very important for children with autism spectrum disorder. Tennyson suggests that parents consider using the following to incorporate more structure in their child’s day:
- schedules that include pictures as well as words
- consistent routines for completing homework, going to bed, waking up, etc.
- checklists for tasks and routines
- timers and reminders for changing activities when needed
Also, ask your child’s school for copies of the visuals that they used to help with communication and behavior, such as stop signs, wait cards, bathroom cards and others.
Never limit your expectations of your child’s abilities.
By trying new things, parents will learn what works for their child. And, remember, just because something doesn’t work well the first time, doesn’t mean it can’t be tried again at some point in the future.
Get help when needed.
Therapists, specialists and medical professionals can all help your child learn the skills needed to thrive in their environment. Consider having a caregiver come in at different times during the month to help alleviate some of the workload and give you a break. Put these appointments on the calendar to be sure your child is expecting these visits.
Connect with other families with children on the autism spectrum.
In our world of social media, connecting with families is easier than ever before. Consider joining a support group, or connecting with a group on Facebook or another social media platform.
“There are a variety of places that offer play groups,” says Mary Helen Richer, executive director of the Autism Society Greater Cincinnati. “For example, the Autism Society of Greater Cincinnati offers monthly recreational programs for all ages where children can interact with other kids and parents, and also have the opportunity to connect with each other, as well.”
The Autism Society of Greater Cincinnati also offers a helpline for families to ask questions, find information and access resources. They are happy to connect families to the various other playgroups, support groups and resources in the community. For more information, call 513-561-2300 or email [email protected]
Parents desire for their children to learn, grow, develop and thrive. Thankfully, there are plenty of tools and resources available for parents to help equip their children and encourage them in their journey toward living their best life.