Supporting a Child with Autism

Greetings Earthlings! 🙂

For a change today, I’d just like to write a quick post for all of the autism parents out there.

I recently received an email about special needs parenting and it got me thinking about ‘autism parents’. How they must be feeling, the difficulties they face, the struggle to understand, teach and support their child. They really should be called ‘awesome parents’- I certainly didn’t make life easy for mine! 😛

Autism is not the easiest of diagnoses for a parent to hear, but there are many simple ways that you can support your child. Granted, I’m not an autism parent, but as someone who has been on the other side of the fence, I’ll do my best to give you my top tips to support and encourage your child 🙂

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Educate yourself– Read, read read! Understanding is key to helping your child. A mechanic can’t help your engine if he doesn’t know how it works first.

Don’t believe everything you read–  You’ll quickly learn that one size does not fit all when it comes to autism. Each case of autism is different, every autist will have different needs and experiences to the next. The advice and experience of others can be useful, but remember to take everything with a pinch of salt.

Try to put yourself in their shoes– The world is often alien to us, we don’t always fit in or understand it’s ways. We don’t mean to act weird or meltdown and cause trouble, but oftentimes our brain has other ideas. Try to understand how we see the world before you judge us too harshly 🙂

Know their limits, but don’t limit them– This can be a challenging balance to strike. As I have discussed previously, we should endeavour to understand the capabilities of autistic children, but we must not use autism as an excuse– explanation yes, but never excuse. When we repeatedly excuse an autists behaviour, or tell them they “can’t” do something, we keep them from reaching their potential. For example, as a child, I could not seem to master the humble skip. Had my parents told me to give up due to my coordination difficulties, I would never have overcome this struggle- and would have looked pretty stupid in school shows where such simple choreography was the cornerstone of many a dance number! 😛 😉

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Never underestimate the power of small victories– whether it’s getting your child to wear a bra, tie their shoelaces or a mastered skip, sometimes it’s the little steps that can have the greatest impact. Had I not overcome my seemingly left feet, I would not have discovered a love of dance, never danced on stage or gone out to clubs. Without this small victory I would never have gone on to help choreograph my school play or even teach dancing to kids as a teenager! The victories seem small, but they just may be the tip of the majestic iceberg lurking underneath 🙂

Accept the A-word– Acceptance is at the heart of supporting a child with autism. Without this, they can never truly fulfill their potential. There’s no use in burying your head in the sand. We won’t grow out of autism, we need to accept and grow around it.

Always remember:

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So there you have it Earthlings- my top tips for supporting a child with autism. However, like I said, I can only speak from my experiences of autism, so here are some other helpful advice links on more specifc ways to support autistic children:

At the end of the day Earthlings, armed with a little bit of knowledge, understanding and most importantly love- there’s no better way to support your child 🙂

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Aoife

Autism- Are We Making Excuses?

Greetings Earthlings,

So today, my title is a little bit different, but I’ve been musing on this question a lot of late- are we making excuses for autists?

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first person to advocate the need for understanding and acceptance for those of us on the spectrum- but there is a fine line between making exceptions and making excuses.

I have seen people that were given all of the support and understanding that I grew up without, and yet they do not seem to function as well as I do. Granted there are varying levels of need and functionality within the community, but one has to wonder if excuses have been made. Certainly teachers have told me about spectrum kids where parents have insisted that their child is “not able” for various school activities.

If raised in a protective autism friendly bubble, what happens when your supports go away in adulthood? How can you cope in the real world if people have spent your whole life excusing your behaviour?

Tells a stranger they look like a troll- “He has Asperger’s!”

Struggles with a maths problem- “She’s not able, she’s autistic!”

Throws a plate in a restaurant- “I can’t help it, I’m on the spectrum!”

If you tried anything like that last one as an adult you would be arrested not excused!

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Yes being autistic is a challenge, yes we can’t always control impulses, meltdowns or our tongues, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t improve. If we are never called out on our behaviour, we will continue to think that it’s ok to tell people that they look like a troll for example, and one day we will say it to the wrong person- bye bye friend, or job opportunity; maybe even hello fist!

I know it’s not easy to scold an autistic child, we don’t understand how or why we’re in trouble, or even what we did wrong sometimes- which often triggered meltdowns for me growing up; but here are some tips on how to approach this situation:

  • Reassure them that they are not in trouble- This can be critical. As you know, we autists are black and white thinkers. We see the world in good and bad. If something we do is bad, then we perceive our whole selves to be bad. Our brains struggle to handle anything less than perfection- and we all know what happens when our brains can’t handle something! #meltdownalert

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  • Explain why the behaviour was bad- The key here is to not excuse the behaviour, but to explain it to us. If we understand why, then we are far less likely to be overwhelmed. “You’re not in trouble Aoife, but it’s not nice to….because… So try to remember that next time ok?
  • Create Rules– Rules are essential to modifying our behaviours. We live our lives by them, and yet when it comes to social rules we just don’t have a clue! If you create some for us however, we will be all the better for it 🙂  penny big bang theory sheldon autism aspergers GIF
  • Use reward systems to encourage positive behaviours- As I’ve discussed previously, my mother found it particularly effective to use rewards to encourage me towards better habits such as studying and holding my temper

I’m not saying that we autists need to conform and be “normal” (as I always say- it’s overrated!), but for our own sakes, we cannot make excuses for every single autistic behaviour. So try new things, fall off that bike a dozen times or tackle that equation.  If we automatically say that we “can’t”- then we will never reach our potential.

We may get it wrong, but oh, what if we succeed? 🙂

Aoife

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