When Your Child with ASD Does Not "Bond" Well with You: Tips for Moms

Question

How do I bond with my 6yr old son that has ASD? It's very hard for me …I need help.

Answer

Just like with any relationship, building a positive relationship between the parent and the high-functioning autistic child is one that requires work and effort to make it strong and successful. Parenting a child on the autism spectrum is a tough job, and maintaining close relationships and open communications helps to ensure parents and their children stay connected through all ages of their upbringing.

Here are 10 simple tips for enhancing the bond between parent and the autistic youngster:

1. Develop and Maintain a Special Bedtime Ritual—For younger kids on the spectrum, reading a favorite bedtime book or telling stories is a ritual that will be remembered most likely throughout their life. Older kids should not be neglected either. Once kids start reading, have them read a page, chapter, or short book to you. Even most teenagers still enjoy the ritual of being told goodnight in a special way by a parent--even if they don't act like it!

2. Eat Meals as a Family—You've heard this before, and it really is important! Eating together sets the stage for conversation and sharing. Turn the TV off, and don't rush through a meal. When schedules permit, really talk and enjoy one another. It can become a quality time most remembered by young and old alike.

3. Establish a Special Name or Code Word—Create a special name for your special needs youngster that is positive and special or a secret code word that you can use between each other. Use the name as a simple reinforcement of your love. The code word can be established to have special meaning between your son and you that only you two understand. This code word can even be used to extract a child from an uncomfortable situation (such as a sleepover that is not going well) without causing undue embarrassment to the child.
 

4. Let Your Kids Help You—Moms and dads sometimes inadvertently miss out on opportunities to forge closer relationships by not allowing their ASD youngster to help them with various tasks and chores. Unloading groceries after going to the store is a good example of something that kids of most ages can and should assist with. Choosing which shoes look better with your dress lets a child know you value her opinion. Of course, if you ask, be prepared to accept and live with the choice made!

5. Make Them a Priority in Your Life—Your special needs kids need to know that you believe they are a priority in your life. Kids can observe excessive stress and notice when they feel you are not paying them attention. Sometimes, part of being a parent is not worrying about the small stuff and enjoying your kids. They grow up so fast, and every day is special. Take advantage of your precious time together while you have it!

6. Play With Your Children—The key is to really play with your kids. Play with dolls, ball, make believe, checkers, sing songs, or whatever is fun and interesting. It doesn't matter what you play, just enjoy each other! Let kids see your silly side. Older kids enjoy cards, chess, computer games, while younger ones will have fun playing about anything...as long as it involves you!

7. Respect Their Choices—You don't have to like their mismatched shirt and shorts or love how a child has placed pictures in his room. However, it is important to respect those choices. Kids reach out for independence at a young age, and moms and dads can help to foster those decision-making skills by being supportive and even looking the other way on occasion. After all, it really is okay if a child goes to daycare with a striped green shirt and pink shorts.
 

8. Say I Love You—Tell your ASD son you love him every day -- no matter his age. Even on trying days or after a parent-child disagreement, when you don't exactly "like your child" at that moment, it is more important than ever to express your love. A simple "I love you" goes a long way toward developing and then strengthening a relationship.

9. Seek Out One-On-One Opportunities Often—Some moms and dads have special nights or "standing dates" with their kids to create that one-on-one opportunity. Whether it is a walk around the neighborhood, a special trip to a playground, or just a movie night with just the two of you, it is important to celebrate each child individually. Although it is more of a challenge the more kids in a family, it is really achievable! Think creatively and the opportunities created will be ones that you remember in the future.

10. Teach Your Faith—Teach your special needs son about your faith and beliefs. Tell him what you believe and why. Allow time for him to ask questions and answer them honestly. Reinforce those teachings often.
 
More resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:
 

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