"Best-of" Tips for Parenting Children on the Autism Spectrum

Here is a concise, cut-to-the-chase list of perhaps the most important (yet simple) strategies for parents of kids with ASD level 1, or High-Functioning Autism (HFA):

1. A child with HFA will act differently from your other kids. You will have to learn new and different ways to help and teach this youngster.

2. Adolescents are usually able to manage stressors better, and behavior problems at school may be less of an issue. However the fatigue that comes from this control may lead to the adolescent 'falling apart' at home.

3. As other children become more sophisticated with interpersonal relationships, it can become more difficult for a student with HFA to be involved in friendship groups, although they may be able to participate well in special interest groups such as science groups. When managing social interactions is difficult, some solitary time can be needed and should not be seen as a 'problem'.

4. HFA is just a label …it’s not a death sentence.

5. Be "concrete" with your child. Tell him that the inappropriate thing he wants or the unacceptable behavior that he is demonstrating is not allowed. He needs to follow structured, consistent rules which will assist in modifying his behavior. Don't give in to raising your voice and getting angry with your "special needs" child - no matter how hard it is not to.
6. Don't be ashamed and hide a child’s disability, be it high functioning autism or low-functioning autism. Most people know someone or love someone with the disorder, and speaking openly about it may help in finding others who need and want to talk about the conditions and their children.

7. Help educators to think about the best way to teach your youngster and make changes to the classroom that will help his learning experience. Teachers will also want to know about the ways that you have learned to manage your youngster's behavior and any special routines or interests that your youngster has and how he communicates.

8. Enlist the help of your Higher Power (I call him God).

9. Establish a daily routine. Consistent behaviors and expectations will help reduce your child's negative behaviors. Daily routine creates stability and comfort for children on the autism spectrum. Also, it helps to lessen their need to make demands on you. When you establish a routine, you eliminate some of the situations in which your child becomes demanding (e.g., by building in regular times to give him attention, he may have less need to show aggression to try to get your attention).

10. Fatigue after school is often a problem, and facing up to homework at the end of the day can be very stressful. You may need to negotiate with educators about the learning objectives of homework and what your youngster actually needs to do. Since many children with the disorder can focus well in some classes (especially those that are built on 'facts'), they may not need the repetitive learning tasks that other children need for some subjects.

11. Find a support group. There are many organizations that want to help mothers/fathers with special needs kids. However, moms and dads can also research the community for what is best for children who are on the Autism Spectrum.

12. Get to know your youngster’s teacher and meet regularly, along with your youngster, to talk about any issues that arise.

13. If anxiety is so overwhelming that it is interfering with your youngster's ability to manage normal activities, medication may be helpful. You will need to see your doctor to arrange this.

14. If you think your youngster has HFA, or one of the other disorders within the autism spectrum, it is best to have an assessment as soon as possible. There may be a waiting time for an assessment.

15. It is better to find out that a child is on the Autism Spectrum now than to wait until he or she is older. There are many things moms and dads can do to make their child’s future the best it can be. The sooner a parent gets a child who is on the Autism Spectrum treatment the better his or her future will be.

16. It may be helpful for you to arrange to attend a staff meeting to inform school staff about autism spectrum disorder - and what this means for your youngster.

17. Moms and dads do not cause the disorder - and should not blame themselves.

18. Offer ways of understanding humor or typical childhood banter that uses available environmental cues.

19. Refer to boundaries as the lines that keep people within the relationship road they are supposed to be on.

20. Secondary school can be very stressful for children with HFA, because of the daily challenges of having several different educators, having to move between classrooms and have different timetables each day. These changes can cause considerable confusion and anxiety for someone who is very resistant to change.

21. Set strategies and routines in place for your youngster that can be followed at home and at school (e.g., regarding acceptable behavior, consequences, dealing with anger and frustration).

22. Stress-management techniques may be helpful to control anxiety in older kids with the disorder.

23. Support from other moms and dads can be important.

24. Think of the social world as a variety of "relationship road maps" that your child needs to perceive accurately and use talking tools to be able to follow.

25. Try some behavior modification. You must determine what need the “bad” behavior is fulfilling, and then teach him a replacement behavior that will satisfy the need.

26. When you enroll your youngster at a preschool or school, talk to school staff about your child’s special needs.

27. You do not have to wait for a diagnosis before you can get help. You can seek support from professionals (e.g., a psychologist, pediatrician, speech pathologist, behavior therapist).

28. You should let school staff know if your youngster is sensitive to certain sounds, smells or being touched. This will help them develop appropriate plans for your youngster.

29. Your youngster will probably need clear routines, and if there have to be changes, he will need lots of warning.

30. Your child must learn to appropriately communicate the cause of his aggression and get his needs met through that insight.

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

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

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