Best Ways to Connect with Your Autistic Child
Children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) relate and interact differently to social interactions. Communication can vary depending on where the autistic child falls on the spectrum.
One of the most prominent obstacles children with ASD deal with is connecting with those around them. A child might be reluctant to make eye contact, become withdrawn, or appear uninterested in connecting with others.
On the other hand, another child could be extremely friendly with others, especially about things they are captivated with. Whereas some children act reserved, some might talk too much, focusing exclusively on one subject.
Just as ASD is a spectrum, so are the ways that autistic children interact with people in their world. Both types of behavior, though, can unintentionally push people away.
Parents of children with autism often struggle to form meaningful connections. These experiences can cause a great deal of distress.
But, continually learning about ASD and techniques that have benefited others can improve your relationship with your autistic child.
Common Barriers in ASD
Getting past general obstacles your autistic child has is the first step to forming a stronger connection with him.
These barriers can make communication skills difficult for those with ASD:
- Often misunderstands or fails to discern nonverbal communication, such as smiles and frowns.
- Taking things literally. Carers should clarify what they articulate to avoid confusion.
- Being able to manage only one idea or thought at a time. Conversations should concentrate on one topic.
- Desire to talk only about their current interests.
- Sensitivity to external stimuli, like tastes, touches, smells, loud noises, etc. While other people don’t notice or tune these out, they might elicit a physical reaction from the child.
Although there is no cure for ASD, treatment provides the chance to break past these barriers and learn how to reach out and engage with others.
Recent research has dramatically changed how healthcare and mental health professionals view and treat pervasive developmental disorders. There is more knowledge than ever about how to help these children.
Tips for Communicating with Your Autistic Child
When it comes to forming a more meaningful relationship with your autistic child, there is no one way to do it right.
However, some families have found success with these tips:
- Patience: Information takes longer to process for children who are on the spectrum. Try speaking more slowly to match their speed.
- Anger management: You must let your child know that they don’t need to bottle up their anger and frustrations. Provide them with constructive ways to express anger without aggression.
- Don’t take it personally: Emotional regulation is difficult for autistic children, and their blunt responses can be hurtful. Although it can be hard, don’t let it hurt your feelings.
- Reinforce positive behavior: Share your praise of your child often, and reward their good actions. Positive reinforcement is one of the best ways to teach children with ASD.
- Ignore bad behavior: If your child misbehaves on purpose to get more attention from you, ignore it. Disregarding poor behavior is one of the best ways to counter it. Also, remind your child about their good behaviors, and talk about it regularly.
- Play outside: Interacting with your child through physical activity is a great way to spend time together. Autistic children have short attention spans, which makes communication challenging. Physical activity helps children calm down and relax.
- Respect their boundaries: A child with autism needs affection like any other child. Although some might need it more, others won’t respond well to it. Respect your child’s personal space and don’t force affection on a reluctant child.
- Don’t forget yourself: Self-care is necessary. Remind yourself to take a break–it’s okay! Find local support groups or someone to care for your child while you take time for yourself. There are numerous resources to get you the help you need.
Treatment & Support for Your Autistic Child
There are many free government services, in-home behavioral therapy, and school-based programs parents can use to meet their child’s needs.
The right treatment plan and plenty of support can go a long way to improving your child’s development and well-being.
As soon as signs of autism or other red flags develop, get help as quickly as possible. Early intervention is the key to having better a chance of success.
Offer Structure and Security
Creating consistency for your child helps reinforce learning. This is beneficial because many kids with autism struggle to apply what they learned in one environment (such as school) to another (like home).
Ask your child’s therapists for any techniques you can continue at home. Encourage your child to apply what he learned in one setting in another by holding therapy in different places.
It’s equally important to stay consistent in the ways you engage with your child and respond to challenging behaviors.
Try making a schedule and staying with it. Structure and routine go hand-in-hand with consistency, and your child will respond well to it. Minimize changes to this routine, but if something can’t be helped, give your child advance notice.
Make a safe space at home for your child, where he can be alone and feel secure and relaxed. Talk to your child about boundaries and use visual cues to mark off-limits spaces if your child is prone to tantrums or self-injurious behaviors, safety proof your home.
Developmental delays can be a challenge, but it also brings many gifts. Your autistic child is still a child, and there is no telling what the future will bring for them. See past the diagnosis and believe in their capabilities.
Talking and touching isn’t always necessary when you want to bond with your child. Simple looks, vocal tone, and body language go further than you think. Even if your child is nonverbal, you can learn ways to interact with him.
Autistic children use nonverbal cues to communicate. Pay attention to what they are. These can include different sounds, facial expressions, and gestures.
When their nonverbal cues go unnoticed, it can cause frustration that leads to a tantrum. When this happens, try to find out what they are feeling.
If conversing isn’t working, try using visual cues like writing, or drawing a picture with your child. This might help relay your message better than just speaking.
Be supportive of your child’s interests, even if you have trouble understanding them. The more you do, the more ways you will find to play and connect with them.
The behavior therapists and analysts at Sandcastle Centers are passionate about making change happen for children and families.
To talk to someone about your needs, call 850-932-8021 or reach out to us on our website.
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