02 Apr World Autism Awareness Day: Parenting Tips For Dealing With ASD
Any parent who hears the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) for their child experiences a gamut of emotions. It was no doubt evident that something was different about your child’s behavior and social interactions. And while ASD can be difficult to contend with at first, just knowing that the condition can be properly diagnosed and that there are many strategies for handling it, makes life easier for both you and your child.
That’s why April 2nd, World Autism Awareness Day, (WAAD) is so important. Each year since 2007, the United Nations has created a theme for WAAD, and this year that theme is: “Empowerment and Equal Opportunity.” But in a sense, the purpose of WAAD never changes – to educate, inspire, raise awareness of and encourage support for children and adults dealing with ASD, and their parents and other caregivers.
This year there are still some hurdles in place in some communities because of the pandemic. They make in-person events trickier in certain places, according to the UN. But virtual events and ideas for how to mark the day are on the WAAD website. To learn more, go to: (https://www.ideas.org.au/event-listing/details/2022-04-02/1350-world-autism-awareness-day.html).
On April 2nd, decide how you can help with raising awareness about autism in your community. Bring in an expert to do a public presentation; post information on autism on your social media accounts, and shine a spotlight on anyone you may know who is successfully dealing with the challenges of raising a child with autism.
And what if that parent is you? What if you’ve recently received this diagnosis from a specialist? Autistic children can show symptoms as young as two years old. These symptoms include:
- Behavioral and communication issues that affect a child’s ability to navigate social interactions.
- Repetitive or restricted behavior.
- Difficulty making and keeping eye contact.
(For more information on ASD, Asperger’s Syndrome and pervasive development disorder (PDD), consult the following website: (https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/children-with-autism-coping-skills-for-parents)
In this post, we offer some tips for dealing with a child who is on the autism spectrum.
1. Learn all you can about autism.
There was a time when parents felt guilty about their child being autistic, as though they had done something wrong to cause it. Today, science and medicine know much more about the condition, and understand it is a neural disorder, coupled with genetic factors that may come into play. But even the most informed experts aren’t sure exactly what’s responsible; however, they do know it has nothing to do with bad parenting, or other nonsensical theories.
2. Create a strong support system for you and your child.
Parents coping with ASD often get overwhelmed by the challenges if they’re on their own. Having someone to turn to – a partner, a nanny, extended family members – is vital for the primary caregiver. If you can, join a support group for parents in your situation, either online or in-person. Sharing ideas, hearing other families’ stories and just passing along information about autism is enormously helpful. Learn what supports are in place for your child, at school or in learning centers that may be staffed with assistants or teachers dedicated to children with special needs. Find out all you can about these supports by contacting your municipal and state government websites – you may be surprised by all the untapped resources available to you.
3. Get to know your child completely.
This may sound obvious – all parents know their children, right? But an autistic child has specific triggers, moods and behaviors that can be unpredictable. The more you pay attention to what sets your child off into a tantrum, for example, the more able you are to deal with it, or avoid it all together. All children have moods and tantrums, of course, but autistic children are affected by external forces that may catch parents off guard. For example, many children with ASD are affected negatively by too many unfamiliar people surrounding them. Knowing this means you won’t ask them to participate in events, like a family reunion, for example, at which many people they don’t know will be present. It is that kind of stressor that may trigger a reaction in an autistic child. Paying close attention to what precedes outbursts and avoiding those triggers as much as possible helps keep an autistic child on an even keel.
4. Don’t neglect yourself and other family members.
Experts agree that parenting an autistic child can be enormously stressful, particularly in the beginning, when parents are learning ways of coping. Consequently, all their time, energy and focus is given to the child with ASD, sometimes at the expense of the parent themselves or even a neurotypical sibling. While this is entirely understandable, it is vital that parents take time to restore and recharge their energy reserves. Take a day away, perhaps, and spend it with your partner or by yourself, doing something you enjoy. Be sure to give lots of attention to other children who are less challenging. That’s why a strong support system is so important – having someone to rely on who can take charge periodically gives parents a much needed break.
5. Try to take things one day at a time.
It’s natural for parents to worry about their autistic child’s future – will they be independent one day, or able to attend post secondary school? These are very real concerns that eventually must be addressed. But live in the present as much as possible, as that’s where your focus and energy needs to be.
Parenting an autistic child is challenging; no one argues that. However, parents all around the world do it every day, and do it successfully. One way to achieve that success is by acknowledging your child is different, but uniquely special in their own way. Reach out for help whenever you need it. Talk with friends, family, your partner and your nanny whenever you feel overwhelmed. And celebrate your child’s achievements, as they learn to cope with the demands of a world they may not always understand. And when April 2nd rolls around, celebrate your child and their accomplishments on World Autism Awareness Day.