Best Tips for Parents of Newly-Diagnosed Children on the Autism Spectrum

“Our 9 y.o. child was diagnosed with autism (high functioning) just last week. We’ve had our suspicions all along and I must say it’s a relief to know exactly what we’re dealing with. Now we can develop a course of action to help. On that note, would you have a list of the most important things we should begin to work on in helping our child be the best he can be given his newly-discovered condition. Thanks in advance!”

Below are 22 crucial suggestions on how to help your child with high-functioning autism (HFA). Some of the ideas will be very helpful, and some may not work at all. So, be prepared for some trial-and-error as you dial in the most effective strategies.

Flexibility, creativity, and a willingness to continue to learn will help you as you raise your "special needs" youngster.

1.    Ask your youngster's teacher to seat him or her next to classmates who are sensitive to your youngster's special needs. These classmates might also serve as "buddies" during recess, at lunch, and at other times.

2.    Be aware of - and try to protect - your youngster from bullying and teasing. Talk to your youngster's teacher or school counselor about educating classmates about HFA.

3.    Be aware that background noises, such as a clock ticking or the hum of fluorescent lighting, may be distracting to your youngster.

4.    Encourage your youngster to learn how to interact with people and what to do when spoken to, and explain why it is important. Give lots of praise, especially when he or she uses a social skill without prompting.

5.    Encourage your youngster's teacher to include him or her in classroom activities that emphasize his or her best academic skills, such as reading, vocabulary, and art.

6.    Foster involvement with others, especially if your youngster tends to be a loner.

7.    Help your youngster understand others' feelings by role-playing and watching and discussing human behaviors seen in movies or on television. Provide a model for your youngster by telling him or her about your own feelings and reactions to those feelings.

8.    Kids with HFA benefit from daily routines for meals, homework, and bedtime. They also like specific rules, and consistent expectations mean less stress and confusion for them.

9.    Kids with HFA often mature more slowly. Don't always expect your child to "act their age."

10.    Many kids with HFA do best with verbal (rather than nonverbal) teaching and assignments. A direct, concise, and straightforward manner is also helpful.

11.    Use pictures to make your youngster familiar with the new settings he will encounter (school, church, scouts, trips, etc.)

12.    Kids with HFA often have trouble understanding the "big picture" and tend to see part of a situation rather than the whole. That's why they often benefit from a parts-to-whole teaching approach, starting with part of a concept and adding to it to demonstrate encompassing ideas.

13.    Practice activities, such as games or question-and-answer sessions, that call for taking turns or putting yourself in the other person's place.

14.    Set up homework routines for your youngster by doing homework at a specific time and place every day. This will help him or her to learn about time-management.

15.    Some kids with HFA have poor handwriting. Typing schoolwork on a computer may be one way to make homework easier. Using computers can also help these “special needs” kids improve fine motor skills and organize information. Occupational therapy may also be helpful.

16.    Teach your youngster about public and private places, so that he or she learns what is appropriate in both circumstances. For example, hugging may not be appropriate at school but is usually fine at home.

17.    Teach your youngster how to read and respond appropriately to social cues. Give him or her "stock" phrases to use in various social situations, such as when being introduced. You can also teach him or her how to interact by role-playing.

18.    Try to identify stress triggers and avoid them if possible. Prepare your youngster in advance for difficult situations, and teach him or her ways to cope. For example, teach coping skills for dealing with change or new situations.

19.    Use rewards to motivate your youngster. Allow him or her to watch TV or play a favorite video game or give points toward a "special interest" gift when he or she performs well.

20.    Use visual systems, such as calendars, checklists, and notes, to help define and organize schoolwork.

21.    Visual supports, including schedules and other written materials that serve as organizational aids, can be helpful.

22.    Your youngster may not understand the social norms and rules that come more naturally to other kids. Provide clear explanations of why certain behaviors are expected, and teach rules for those behaviors.

Best of luck, and enjoy the journey!

Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD

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