Learning your child has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be overwhelming. Chances are, you’re wondering what to do next and how to help your child cope and thrive with their condition.
ASD is a developmental disorder, not an illness, so there’s no cure for it. Instead, it means your child’s brain works a little differently from most other children’s brains. But because autism is a spectrum disorder, everyone with ASD has slightly different symptoms and needs.
At The Center for Advanced Pediatrics in Darien and Norwalk, Connecticut, our providers want you to know that managing autism is like running a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time and practice to learn what works best for your child and for you.
Our behavioral health services can help with everything from getting a diagnosis to personalized ASD management and parent support. Here’s a look at some of the things you can do to help your child with ASD thrive.
The first step you should take is working with your child’s provider at The Center for Advanced Pediatrics to create an ASD management plan for your child. Based on your provider’s assessment of your child’s unique needs, this plan includes therapies and recommendations to help your child thrive.
Our providers can also connect you with other therapies that benefit children with ASD, such as social skills training, occupational therapy, speech-language therapy, physical therapy, nutritional therapy, and extra support for parents and ASD caregivers.
We also know that as your child grows, their needs may change. We’re here to help you every step of the way. Your child’s provider can modify their ASD management plan and put you in contact with additional resources that can help your child thrive as they grow.
Since autism is a spectrum disorder, every child with ASD presents a little differently. By paying attention to your child’s behaviors and working to understand them, you can better meet your child’s needs and cut down on some of the frustrations.
For example, some children with ASD are sensitive to sensory stimulation, like tags on clothes or bright lights. By observing their reactions and the things that trigger them, you can take proactive steps when possible and better help your child cope.
Be sure to focus on the positive and offer praise when your child does well. Loving your child for who they are is one of the most important ways you can help your child with autism succeed.
Many children with ASD struggle with disorganization. By creating and sticking to structured routines, you can help your child get through their day with fewer distractions, which can mean fewer autism tantrums or behavioral challenges.
Since most ASD children benefit from consistency, try keeping your child to a set bed- and wake-up time. Work to eat meals and snacks at around the same time each day, and have a routine before and after school.
Be sure to schedule plenty of leisure and playtime. It’s important to give your child structured time to relax and unwind so they can focus on the interests or activities they find enjoyable. Providing this time helps them de-stress and thrive.
Many kids with ASD struggle with verbal communication—especially when uncomfortable or emotionally upset. Learn to look at different ways your child tries to communicate their feelings and needs, such as facial expressions, body movements or positions, hand gestures, and even the sounds they make (e.g., grunting, clicking their tongue).
You’ll also want to be sure to try communicating back to your child in different ways to help reach them, especially when they’re having a difficult time. For example, you can change your body language or movements to offer comfort or create space, or change the tone or volume of your voice to draw their attention.
Parenting a child with ASD can be stressful. To best help your child, it’s important to take care of yourself, too. Consider seeking a support group or therapist who specializes in autism, and be sure to practice self-care, like exercise, getting plenty of sleep, and stress management.
ASD also affects your other children and any additional caregivers. Family therapy can be a useful tool. Your child’s school and community may also have great ways for you, your child, and your entire family to connect with others and feel less alone.
For personalized help managing your child’s autism, schedule an appointment online or over the phone at The Center for Advanced Pediatrics.