In the United States, 1 in 54 children is diagnosed with autism, and as many as 33% of those children are nonverbal. Parenting a child with autism can be challenging, especially if your child falls into the nonverbal category. It’s normal to feel frustrated at times, but there are many strategies that can help your child thrive.
If your child has autism, or you are starting to notice the signs of autism, seek care right away. At Pediatric Care of Four Corners, our medical director, Eiman ElSayed, MD, specializes in diagnosing and treating developmental conditions, including autism spectrum disorder.
Try these five strategies to help your child cope
In the meantime, here are five strategies you can implement to help your child cope with autism.
1. Establish (and stick to) schedules
Nothing triggers an autism tantrum quite like deviation from the normal routine. Disorganization and disarray are difficult for a child with autism to manage. Children with autism tend to do better with:
- Structured routines
- Reliable schedules
As a parent, there are many ways you can establish routines. This includes enforcing a strict bedtime and wake-up time. Also, set regular mealtimes so your child can expect when to eat. Set entertainment hours at home, and try to do things in a specific order. For example, when your child finishes school for the day, offer an after-school snack, and then allow playtime for an hour.
2. Don’t forget to schedule playtime, too
Schedules aren’t just for bedtimes and mealtimes. You should schedule playtime and leisure time, too. It’s important that your child has enough time to relax, unwind, and focus on their favorite activities.
Because children with autism can become stressed, allow for plenty of leisure time. Whether your child paints, builds with Legos, or throws a ball, these activities can make your child happy. Scheduling the activities for the same time every day helps your child know when to expect them.
3. Experiment with new ways to communicate
Verbal communication isn’t always an option when you have a child with autism spectrum disorder. They may feel unable to speak if they’re upset. Instead, look for nonverbal cues, including:
- Facial expressions
- Hand gestures
- Body positioning
- Sounds (e.g., huffing or clicking their tongue)
You can even communicate back to your child without talking. The way you look at your child can send messages, such as “I’m here for you.” You can also try speaking with a certain tone of voice (even if you know your child won’t respond verbally). And you, too, can use hand gestures and body language to send messages to your child.
4. Understand your child’s quirks
If you find yourself perplexed by your child’s quirks, you’re not alone. All parents experience behaviors (such as tantrums) that are less than ideal. But if you make an effort to understand your child’s quirks and specific triggers, you can minimize your own negative responses.
For instance, children with autism can be extremely sensitive to sensory stimuli. Bright lights, loud noises, and strong odors can cause problems. If loud sounds bother your child, take note. Accept this as one of your child’s quirks. If you learn how to deal with it (e.g., such as offering noise-canceling headphones), you help both yourself and your child thrive.
5. Get out into your local community
Parenting a child with autism can feel isolating at times, but the more you and your child get involved with the community, the better. Try joining autism support groups, both online and in person.
In addition to autism support groups, get involved with school activities, community groups, and sports teams — with proper social distancing. Anything you can think of, give it a try. You never know what your child is going to respond positively to, and socializing can help you both.
Questions? We’re here to help
At Pediatric Care of Four Corners, we’re here to help your child thrive. Whether your child requires well-child checkups, a sick visit, or help with managing a developmental condition, we’re here for you.
To learn more about coping with autism, visit Dr. ElSayed at her Davensport, Florida office. Call our office at 863-201-8949 or request an appointment online. We also offer telehealth virtual visits.