As parents sometime we wonder how we can support our children who have autism and special needs. Supporting them can sometimes be a challenge, but they need all the support they can get because they experience things in their day-to-day life that you don’t. Whether it is help with their homework, shopping, or access to certain entertainment, there are a lot of ways that you can support them. It’s important to find a way that works for them.
Here are 8 ways you can support your child in this journey.
It’s not unusual for children with special needs to engage in self-stimulatory behavior (known as stimming). It could be flapping their hands, rocking their body, or making noises. This behavior will be different for each child. For these children stimming can be an outlet for stress. When a child’s stims can be expressed in a quality or joyful way, such as through jumping or body spins, it can be a great outlet for their emotional needs. It’s important to encourage this stimming as it’s a healthy coping strategy for them.
2. Comfort Food.
Many children and adults with autism have trouble tolerating foods and tend to be picky eaters. They are often sensitive to specific foods like gluten, dairy, and different nutrients in general, so it is important to be aware of this when making food. The key to cooking is to keep these preferences in mind and cook 'comfort' food, food they are comfortable with taste and texture. Typically, most comfort foods don't change too much to a point that you feel that you are cooking the same thing every single day.
Routines can be a powerful tool in helping autistic children assimilate into their environment. Routines provide stability and structure for autistic children who need these things to thrive. When designing a routine for your child, it’s important to make it something that they are comfortable with. Each child is different, and some might prefer a more rigid routine than others. Instead of exerting the pressure that it has to be this one particular routine or another, it’s important to allow your child’s own particular needs to be met.
It’s so important for children with autism to have clear expectations and to have the work structured when it comes to chores. They might find it difficult to communicate their needs and understand what needs to be done and what is expected of them. Remember to keep the work light and fun. (A child with autism might not be able to do a chore as quickly as a neurotypical child. Be patient and go at the pace they need)
5. Sensory Environment.
Creating a sensory environment at home is a way to help children on the autism spectrum feel more comfortable. This is important not just to help them feel more comfortable in their own home, but also because it’s a way for them to build more independence. A sensory-friendly environment at home could mean having the right kind of textures, lighting, and sounds like having a white noise machine to block out noises. Such an environment can lower children's levels of anxiety and stimming, and cause less stress.
One way to make your child with autism feel better at home is to allow them the freedom to make adaptations. Adaptations can be anything from giving them more time to complete tasks, or visual prompts for tasks like brushing teeth or putting dishes on a clear drying rack or setting the table. Adaptations can decrease stress levels in children, and lets them spend time at home more comfortably.
7. Own Space.
One of the biggest challenges parents of children with autism have is teaching them to live in a world with so many unpredictable triggers and events. Therapists recommend creating an environment where the child rules. This means giving them their own space in your home which they can control. This space doesn't need to be a separate room, but instead, it should be about rearranging a bedroom or living area so that the child with autism can feel safe and in control. These kids need to know that their space, their own four walls, will provide them with safety and security that they need for self-care.
8. Me Time.
Children with Autism need some time for themselves to just focus on what they do best — and that's ignoring the world around them. It's important to allow children with autism to engage in activities that they enjoy. When they have some time for themselves, they're able to examine and analyze the things they love to do. “Me” time is important for all children, but children with autism sometimes crave it more than others. That's because they're sometimes tired of engaging with the world around them.
Autism and Special Needs can be challenging because there's no set formula. Remember every child is different, and they will all need help in different areas. What might work for one child might not work for another. It can be difficult, frustrating, and exhausting for a child with special needs. So they need all the love and support they can get from their family in order to succeed and to feel better in the long run. And the place is start is home and family.
Please let us know in the comments below in case we have missed out any other ways we can support a child.
Learning Life skills for Children with Autism and Special Needs is essential to increase independence at home, at school and in the community. By introducing these skills early and building block by block, these children will gain the tools that will help them to be successful. Of course each child with Special Needs has a different measure of success. For some, putting on clothing, remembering to eat, or simply being able to navigate daily tasks will be the goal. For others, it will be remembering to get to class, or performing simple tasks at home or school.