If you have recently learned that your toddler has or might have autism, then it’s natural to wonder and worry about what’s in store for them next. No parent ever wants to hear that their child is anything but happy and healthy – and a diagnosis of ASD can be particularly frightening if you’re not familiar with it. You may find yourself feeling unsure as to how best to help your child or confused with conflicting advice. You may be concerned that there’s nothing you can do to make a difference.
Although it’s true that ASD is lifelong and a child cannot simply ‘grow out’ of it, there are many things that you can do as a parent to help your toddler thrive in their development, acquire new skills, and overcome a wide variety of developmental challenges typically presented by autism.
Start Treatment Right Away
The best thing that you can do is be proactive when it comes to getting support for your toddler. Whether it’s speech therapy or another recommended treatment type, seek help as soon as you suspect that something isn’t quite right – don’t wait around for an official diagnosis. The earlier that children with ASD get support, the greater their chance of figuring out how to manage their symptoms is for both of you.
Learn About Autism
Autism isn’t something your child will grow out of as they get older. So, as a parent, you need to be equipped to deal with this as a lifelong part of who your child is. The more you know about ASD, the better prepared you will be to make informed decisions to help and support your child. Spend some time educating yourself on special needs planning and treatment options, join a support group for autism parents, and actively participate in any programs your child is involved in.
Really Get to Know Your Child
As the parent of a child with autism, you have to be nothing short of an expert on your kid. Children with autism are all different, and you need to know what triggers any challenging or disruptive behaviors that your child may have displayed, what they find frightening or stressful, what makes them uncomfortable, and what they enjoy too. When you have this deep understanding of exactly what affects your child and how you become much better at preventing or modifying situations that lead to difficulties.
Children with autism can often have a difficult time applying what they have learned in one setting to another. You may have noticed this as a parent of a toddler with autism with aspects such as potty training, for example. Potty training an autistic child might take longer than expected because even though they are doing well at home, they struggle to apply the strategies learned outside of the home. Creating consistency in your child’s environment is the best way to encourage learning. For example, toilet training a child with autism means that you need to be consistent in every environment, and teach the skills in various places both inside and outside of the home. Autism Parenting Magazine is an excellent resource to use for tips on everyday life with an autistic child or toddler. From practical tips to make autism and potty training easier to strategies that help your child develop better social skills, it’s definitely worth subscribing to no matter which point you are at in your journey. You can access the magazine online at https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/autism-potty-training-guide/.
Have a Structured Routine in Place
Many children with autism tend to do better when they have a highly structured routine or schedule in place. You may have noticed that your child struggles to cope emotionally if they are faced with a situation out of the norm, or something unexpected happens that disrupts their usual routine. Try to avoid this by setting up a regular schedule for your child with regular times for school, meals, therapy, socialization, play, and bedtime. Keep any disruptions to a minimum. If you cannot avoid a change in the schedule, prepare your child well in advance. Carol Gray’s social stories for children with autism can be useful for this.
Create a Safe, Chilled Zone at Home
It’s not unusual for children with ASD to become overwhelmed and overstimulated in response to sensory information. You may know this as a ‘meltdown’. Create a calm, private space in your home where your child can relax and feel safe and secure. You may also find it helpful to safety-proof the house if your child is prone to becoming overstimulated and is at risk of self-injurious behavior. Ear defenders may be useful if your child tends to be affected by loud noises.
Discovering that your toddler is autistic can be daunting for many parents new to the experience. With the right support, you can help your child thrive.
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