For some parents, a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may be a sigh of relief while other parents may find this news as a shock. Either reaction is completely normal. The important thing to know is that, although there is no known cure for autism, there is hope and there are resources! Your child will be able to learn, grow and gain new skills within their potential. One of the first steps is to learn about ASD and what it could mean for your child. As the diagnosis suggests, ASD is a spectrum. Some people use the terms “low functioning” or “high functioning” to define the different challenges of autistic individuals, but these labels do not capture the strengths, weaknesses, needs, and experiences of autistic people. An important step in educating yourself is to adjust your child’s home environment to best meet their needs.
Things to do at home:
Children with autism tend to be more visual learners. They could benefit from visual representations of language as a supplement to what you are saying vocally. The picture exchange communication system (PECS) is one such system of symbols and pictures that can be used to supplement language for children with autism. Consult with a professional, such as a Speech and Language Pathologist or Board Certified Behavior Analyst to see if PECS is a good tool for your child.
Children with ASD prefer to have their day to be as predictable as possible. Increasing structure is often facilitated in a more visual manner. Have your child follow a visual schedule for the day or certain routines, keep a visual list of house rules or chores/activities, implement a visual warning before they end an activity or transition.
Providing opportunities to make choices allows individuals with ASD to develop a sense of self, build self-esteem, improve problem solving skills, and learn how to reduce conflicts. Giving choices will help your child have control and independence within their life.
-Take into consideration sensory difficulties
Children can be hypersensitive (be overstimulated by too many noises or bright lights) or the opposite where they will seek out stimuli to fulfill their needs (such as tight hugs, dim lights or loud music). The more aware you are, the more comfortable you can make them feel at home!
Seeking appropriate services
Applied behavior analysis is one of the main treatment options for children with autism spectrum disorder. Check out our article on the benefits of ABA therapy here: https://behavenkids.com/blog/what-are-the-benefits-of-aba-therapy/
For those in Nebraska, Behaven Kids would love to talk with you about ABA therapy and its benefits for your child!