Over the past couple of years I've read lots of posts and articles on parenting a child with autism, and for the most part, they seem to be very general in the tips and advice they give. The problem is, no one child is the same. Every child is different; regardless if they are on the spectrum or neurotypical. There isn't a how-to guide for your child. This post is really about the things we have learned and do daily with our son.
Each day you will learn something new; just add it to the list. It's your own collection of tools to help you through this parenting jungle.
What I did want to talk about is how we've adjusted. Talk a little bit about how we felt and, if you're at the beginning of this journey, maybe you can relate to where we've been, what we have done and where we are going.
Also. Just to note that we're also at the beginning of this journey. Little Mr was diagnosed just 2 years ago. If you've just got a diagnosis then you may think 'you must have some helpful tips' others may have had diagnosis many years ago. They may nod at some of this and know the journey we have ahead. Teenage years I can imagine being fun.
Either way, in this post I will talk about our parenting of our child on the spectrum and how it's changed us. Hope you find this interesting.
The first thing we learned was how to communicate with our son. Sounds a bit silly really, but the way we were working with him wasn't the best. Its kind of a strange thing to say out loud but we had to go back to basics. It started with imitation. Felt kind of strange, but we had to imitate what they did. The idea was that eventually, your child would notice your copying. They would eventually do something and then wait for you to copy.
It's something that is done and learned when they are a baby, so to get the interaction and communication going; we needed to start here. This seems to go on forever, but then you move upwards from there. Shared playing, initiating go and much more. You get to use now and next boards.
These ideas are well used; you find them on virtually any good site about starting communication and autism. You go forward from there with PECS; something we're working with now. Some children do great with these, for us, it's more of a struggle.That said, we find that our son responds well to us telling him things, he is good with verbal communication in - he just can't communicate verbally with us. This is what I mean but each child is different. Some require that visual aspect and others not. However, the good thing about PECS is they can use the card to say what they want; this is where we struggle.
The other thing we have found, which can be hard at times, is its all about calm parenting. When they are having a meltdown then you need to be calm and steady when trying to calm them down. When they have chewed through something or broken something by accident, be calm. Calm is good and it can be difficult at times.
Calm parenting definitely takes time and effort and I've certainly seen people get flustered.
The great thing is, there is some great help out there. When little Mr. was diagnosed, it opened up a whole world of help and support. The great thing is, we learned so much from this help.
When I was talking about learning to communicate. We learned how to communicate with the help of a group called portage. They helped us through that journey. I don't think we would be communicating so well with our son if not for their help.
The one thing we learned quite quick is you need to grow a thick skin. The looks that other parents give you when your child is having a meltdown or making noises in places that are quiet. Well, let's just say that most don't understand and think you have a naughty child.
You get some that will walk up and say something innocent like 'Someones not happy' or something along those lines. We get some come up and try to help, again though, not knowing that our son is non-verbal, and they don't really know that it could be anything that is causing him to have that meltdown. It could be as simple as the light in that area to something he hasn't got.
You need to grow a thick skin and just ignore the looks and smile at those that are trying to help, or at least believe they are helping.
There is so much more. So many things we have yet to discover. So many hopes we have and dreams we hope to accomplish. The one thing I do want to say is; having a child on the spectrum means that your parenting will be different. Its scary at the best time. However, don't stop doing things you would do otherwise.
Don't think 'I won't goto that theme park'. Who knows, it may turn out to be the best day ever. It may turn into a complete meltdown. Either way, you learn something new. Enjoy the time you have with your children - that's the best thing I can say regardless to if they are on the spectrum or neurotypical.
When it comes down to it. Parenting a child with autism is a journey of discovery. As I said at the beginning, every child is different and being a parent is going to be different for you than me. There are key skills you can learn, key skills that will help you communicate with your little one. But, only you know your child, so you need to adapt the best of these for you.