Tips for Parents with Children with Autism

Autism Tips

Start the day with a small goal in mind.  You might say today I will make it through the day with a positive outlook. 
When the basement floods on a rainy day put on rain boots and have your child help you “save” the day.  Make the best of any situation.  Another great example of this was a family that had to get copies done at a Staples copy center with the whole family.  Instead of waiting for a tantrum to brew the older sibling helped to occupy her sister with rides on the office chairs.  Not only did that help but also it was a nice sensory break to roll around and gently twirl in the office chairs.  Remember to have a sense of humor and make light of situations.


Learn to take a breath, don’t rush yourself or others, and spend family time together.
Sometimes life happens and you can’t always predict the outcome.  Families that over schedule children often don’t realize that they often want down time and as a result can act out.  I know that we often get caught up with being on time or constantly rushing other family members due to worry or frustration.  But it is important to take the time to eat dinner as a family and not eat in front of the TV or computer.  These small times during the day may be the only indication of your children’s mental health and well-being.  When you take the time to ask how your children are you may be surprised how honest they will be with you and this strengthens your relationship and builds social connectedness.


Always be one step ahead, Be Prepared!
If last minute doctor appointments need to happen or you have to pick up someone from the airport think ahead.  Have a small backpack with a few snacks and drink boxes as well as an extra change of clothes, a music cd for the car and small toys that will entertain your child when you might need to wait.  I once had a mom say to me you have worked with my daughter to go food shopping without any tantrum, how do you do it? My answer was “I was prepared”; I had a small bag of pretzels and a water bottle.  When I got a cart I had her daughter hold on to the side and gave her a pretzel every other aisle.  When we went thru to check out I knew she would be thirsty so I handed her the water and it was a successful trip to the supermarket.


Use reinforcers to your advantage.
Many parents don’t know if they are reinforcing bad habits or behaviors.  For example when a mother was trying to keep her child calm in the backyard because a neighbor suddenly turned on the lawnmower, she tried to give him candy to stop the outburst.  But the truth was that leaving and moving to the inside of the house would have been better. Instead the mom gave candy when an outburst happened which means that her child just got reinforced for acting out.  Once inside the house her child was able to calm down. Once the lawnmower stopped mowing then re-introduce the idea of going outside and use candy to reinforce as they may have anxiety over the lawnmower sound.  Never give reinforcing items during a meltdown or your going to see an increase in this type of behavior.


Reduce anxiety use a visual schedule
Just like a checklist that is handy for remembering what has to get done helping your child use similar schedules and checklists can help keep everyone be aware of what is expected of them and what they can anticipate.  Often time’s children with non-verbal delays use PECS to communicate using a form of picture exchange communication or sign language.  I worked with a student of mine who would use sign.  I knew that it was important for our whole day to have a schedule, as it would change often. As a result of using a schedule I noticed a huge decrease in problem behavior. I used a verbal schedule, which I would model, and sign.  My student would then repeat or sign with me as to help know then the next time he could contact an activity, such as gym. To reduce frustration I would remind my student that gym class was over but he will have gym on Monday with the teacher’s name and how we will go walking.  This was an easy way to transition my student so that he knew he could have gym again in the future.  On previous occasions before the verbal schedule I had to deal with behavior that wouldn’t allow my student to attend gym class.  I also let my student understand that if problem behavior then no gym class.  The schedule helped to set boundaries and allowed my student to have a freedom with his peers, which he didn’t have, access to before.



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