Autism parents: Self-care is a critical part of child care

It is so important to remember to take a moment for yourself every now and then. You are dealing with a lot as a parent, especially as a parent of a child with autism, and you deserve to take a break. It helps to know your limits and be aware of when you’re starting to get overwhelmed so that you can step away before your emotions get the best of you.

 

Having a partner, friend, or any support system you can rely on in times of need is extremely helpful. If you can lean on someone or have someone who can step in for you when you’ve hit your limit, you’ll be much better off in the long run. You can better care for your child after you’ve cared for yourself.

 

Never feel like you have to parent alone. It can be hard to admit you need help and even harder to ask for it, but don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. Everyone needs help at some point!

 

Family and friends can be great support systems, whether in person or just to have someone to talk to when you need a listening ear. Additionally, there are blogs, social media channels, and communities online for autism parents and people going through the same thing as you and your family. Find the community that works for you, and don’t be afraid to lean on them when you need it. Sometimes you have to recognize that you need to put yourself first - and that’s ok.

 

Carve out time for yourself, that’s just for you. Have a night out with your friends, or a date with your partner while you get a sitter you trust or a family member that can come watch your child for a few hours. Even if you just need fifteen minutes alone, ask for it. Trust your support system to be enough and allow yourself to relax, because you deserve it.


 

References:
Rutan McCafferty, Kimberlee. Dear Moms, Carve out some time for you. Retrieved from: https://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/2018/05/08/dear-moms-carve-out-some-time-you

How to help resolve conflicts easily and effectively for children with autism

Conflict resolution is always a challenging situation. Everyone is faced with the challenge of balancing their emotions while speaking out and expressing how we really feel. For children and adults on the autism spectrum, conflict resolution can be even more difficult when you aren’t sure what is or isn’t appropriate to say, or how to best express your feelings.

 

Remind your child that all feelings and emotions are valid. Help teach them to take a moment to recognize how they feel by acknowledging what is bothering them and actually telling you (or the person involved in the conflict) how it makes them feel. Even using simple statements like “That makes me feel …” or ‘I’ statements like “I felt left out because…” can be helpful in order to understand where each child stands. Stress the importance of being honest and recognizing their own role in the conflict.

 

Allow everyone time to calm down and cool off, even let them walk away for a minute if they need to. You can even talk to each child separately to get the full story, offering them time to breathe and evaluate their own feelings before confronting one another. Each child may have their own strategy for calming down, from just taking a break, playing with someone else, counting to 10, or even writing down their thoughts and feelings.

 

When resolving the conflict, make sure all parties involved listen as well as talk. Everyone should get a chance to be heard, to tell their side of the story, and to speak about their emotions. Conflicts are not competitions with one winner, but rather a challenge for both parties involved to overcome together.

 

Once every side of the story has been told, make sure to apologize. Be sure to have your child use the words “I’m sorry,” and specifically state what went wrong and how they can improve for next time so that a similar conflict does not happen again. Encourage them to come up with their own solution that they think of and can agree on. These solutions are more likely to stick, rather than you generating a solution for them.

 

Overall, it’s important to make sure everyone is heard and no emotions are ignored. Having a few strategies up your sleeve that your child can rely on in times of conflict will be helpful in acknowledging what’s wrong and move forward from there.

 

References:

Deloya, Hailey. How to Teach Students to Solve Conflicts with Peers. Retrieved from: http://autismtank.blogspot.com/2018/01/how-to-teach-students-to-solve.html

Disabled World. People with Autism: Communication and Conflict Resolution. Retrieved from: https://www.disabled-world.com/health/neurology/autism/conflicts.php   

Ori, Jack. Conflict Resolution For People With Aspergers. Retrieved from: https://thesjadvocate.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/conflict-resolution-for-people-with-aspergers/

Monke, Audrey. 5 Steps to Help Kids Resolve Conflicts. Retrieved from: http://sunshine-parenting.com/2015/05/08/5-steps-to-help-kids-resolve-conflicts/

Strategies to help cope with anxiety or autism meltdowns

Most of us have experienced nervousness or an anxiety attack, or at least know someone who has. With children or adults on the autism spectrum, what might be nervous jitters or a minor anxiety attack can show as a full meltdown, often in reaction to daily life stressors. These breakdowns can be especially challenging in public, but with a few coping strategies at the ready, you can be prepared for anything.

 

The first step in dealing with a public meltdown happens before anything even starts through prevention strategies. Prepare for an outing with social stories - give an example of a common situation, like going to the grocery store, and describe the noise or crowds that may be encountered, and how the problem will be dealt with, whether it’s with a hug to calm down, leaving, or earplugs.

 

Involve your child in the event, have them put groceries in the cart or pick out a book at the library. Have distractions prepared, like a small toy to play with or a game, and teach your child coping strategies they can use when they’re stressed. You can also use rewards for good behavior as knowing that they will get to do their favorite activity when they get home or get a treat for being quiet and well-behaved at the store can be a great motivation.

 

When meltdowns do happen, even when prevention strategies have been practiced, know your child’s triggers and their coping techniques. Help them take deep breaths, or do whatever they may need in order to calm down and reduce the stressors. If you know crowds are a problem, keep that in mind when you’re going to a busy place. You could also have your child give you a certain sign or have a system in place as a way for them to tell you when they start to feel overwhelmed so you know how they’re feeling and have time to act before it escalates.

 

Be prepared to be flexible. Sometimes triggers are unavoidable, but if you’re prepared for anything, you’ll be fine. If you know you’re going to a family party, for example, tell your child what to expect, and give them a timeline. Promise to be there for two hours, and stick to that. Routines can help in lowering stress and keeping anxiety at bay. Know what you need to bring to help your child, and try to stay calm. When a breakdown strikes, if it’s possible, stop what you’re doing and focus on helping your child. Try using their coping techniques together or provide a distraction.

 

In addition to what you can do for your child, you also should have support. Lean on family and friends for advice, support, and help, and consider therapy or professional help for both your child and the family. Creating effective coping strategies and learning to deal with anxiety will take time, practice, and immense patience.



 

References:

Autism Speaks. Autism & Your Family. Retrieved from https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/autism-your-family

Danneman, Ilana. AngelSense GPS Blog | Strategies for Autism Related Anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.angelsense.com/blog/7-strategies-reducing-anxiety-kids-autism/

What is ABA?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behavior (Baer, Wolf & Risley, 1968; Sulzer-Azaroff & Mayer, 1991).

 

ABA techniques can be used in a variety of social, structured situations, from classroom settings, to everyday life, such as family events or playing with friends.

 

ABA methods support socially significant behaviors, which include reading, academics, social skills, communication, and everyday living skills such as motor skills, eating, food prep, dressing, self-care, punctuality, and more.

 

Positive reinforcement is a main component of ABA in order to increase and reinforce good behaviors and reward new skills. Behaviors are either increased such as with on-task behavior, and social interactions, maintained (self-control, self-monitoring), generalized or transferred from one situation to another (completing assignments in resource room and the mainstream classroom), restricted to certain conditions and environments, reduced entirely, or new skills can be taught (Center for Autism and Related Disorders).

 

Today, ABA is recognized as an effective treatment for autism, endorsed by state and federal agencies. It has seen a rise in use to help those with autism lead happy, healthy, productive lives (Autism Speaks). Basic skills, such as eye contact, listening, imitating, as well as more complex skills, like reading, communicating with others, and understanding another person’s point of view have all been shown to improve with ABA techniques.

 

For more information about ABA, visit soothingwaterfalls.com.

Resources for parents raising kids with autism

Raising a child with autism has it challenges, but the most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. There are other moms, dads, siblings, friends, and families, going through similar situations, and there are plenty of of organizations and groups available for support.

 

First and foremost, it’s important to build a support system of family and friends you know you can trust. You’ll need someone who is willing to step in when you’re overwhelmed or when you’ve hit your limit, whom you know you can rely on without feeling guilty for asking. Caring for yourself is an integral part of being able to care for your child. Consider finding someone you can just talk to when times are tough. If you have a friend or family member you go to when you need to vent and who will listen to you without judgment, that alone can help lift a huge burden.

 

Having a child with autism is not easy, but with a solid support team, you can do anything. If you’re married or a have a partner, create a system that works for both of you - know how much each of you can tolerate, and remember that it’s okay to need (and ask for) a break.

 

The biggest online resource, and a great place to start when looking for more information, is Autism Speaks. Its website is full of information about autism diagnoses, treatment, care, connections to support systems in your area, and lists of other organizations where you can learn more or get involved.

 

There are countless websites and blogs full of research, current studies, and links to learn more about your child, how they see the world, about autism in general, and, most importantly, to remind you and your family that there are others going through the same things. It can be helpful to stay on top of the current research and be informed about what is going on in the autism community.

 

Above all else, you absolutely do not have to go through this on your own! It is always okay to ask for help.

10 things you can do to help your child with autism on a day-to-day basis

Daily life with a child who has autism can be different and has its own unique challenges. Experiencing a range of emotions is normal, and you should not be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Taking care of yourself is an important part of caring for your child. Here are 10 simple strategies, tips, and reminders to keep in mind every day:

 

1. Speak up for your child.

If you feel like something is wrong, don’t stay quiet. Ask questions. Trust your gut. Fight for what is right for your child so they have what they need to succeed in all aspects of their lives, whether at school, at home, or elsewhere.

 

2. Set a routine and structure for the day.

Make a daily routine - wake up at the same time each day, eat around the same times, and stay on schedule. If you’re going to an event, provide a specific time for how long you will be there so everyone is on the same page and expectations can be managed.

 

3. Be flexible.

While schedules are important, don’t forget to leave room for flexibility. When unexpected circumstances come up, roll with it and keep moving.

 

4. Let your child find ways to handle their own problems.

Recognize when your child needs a break, and allow them to self-soothe. Both your child and you should have strategies for how to calm down or deal with unexpected issues as they arise. Give them time to solve a problem on their own and get a little frustrated with it. If they need help, they will ask for it.

 

5. Stay calm and listen.

Take a deep breath when you feel yourself losing control. Keep an open mind in all situations. Help your child talk about what they’re feeling and try to project a sense of calm and understanding.

 

6. Know that your child is not their autism.

Don’t let a diagnosis define your child. Your kid is the same person they were before the word “autism” entered your life. Remember that life can be funny - it’s okay to laugh at some of the situations you’ll face. Love your child for who they are and the unique way they see the world we share.

 

7. Ask for help.

There is no need to do this on your own. Find a support system you can trust and talk to, and be sure take a break when you need one. Know your limits and step away before it’s too much.

 

8. Listen to others, but trust your own opinions.

It doesn’t matter what other people think of your child. You know what’s best for them, and you know one meltdown in public doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. Listen to the advice of others, but take it with a grain of salt.

 

9. Take advantage of available resources.

There is a great network of people and organizations that can help you understand autism more in depth, and who can be there to listen, to support, and to help when things get tough. You can learn so much, and there is always more information to read about what autism is, how it happens, how to treat it, and how to cope.

 

10. Make mistakes.

No one is perfect. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself or your child - neither of you have done anything wrong, and you’re doing the best you can. Allow yourself to mess up and learn from it.

 

References:

Autism Speaks. Autism & Your Family. Retrieved from https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/autism-your-family

Finding Cooper’s Voice. (2017). 9 Big Mistakes Parents of Autistic Kids Can Avoid - Finding Cooper’s Voice. Retrieved from https://www.findingcoopersvoice.com/2017/01/12/9-big-mistakes-parents-of-autistic-kids-can-avoid/