As a young parent, when faced with a new diagnosis, there’s way too much emphasis laid on things a child with autism will have “difficulty doing” rather than focusing on the innumerable strengths and the potential each child has, that can be worked upon and developed further.
Each child on the Autism spectrum is unique—how they express their emotions, how they communicate with the world around them and how they view the world through their eyes— is specific to the child.
There is so much to learn from their focus on details, things that may escape you and I, their interest in rhythmic, repetitive patterns –be it music, art, numbers or even ordinary, mundane activities. It makes sense to them and I think it is very important to acknowledge that.
The journey with Autism is definitely not a bed of roses, but if we allow ourselves to step back and be mindful, from time to time, Autism can open up a new world for us.
Accepting a child for who he or she is, is the first step. But acceptance is a process. We all get bothered/anxious by how other children are able to meet their various milestones on time, and how a seemingly small milestone (for neurotypical children) translates into a major milestone for most of us.
Accepting a diagnosis does not mean that we are untouched by what goes around us. The realization that the child with autism will definitely grow, but at his or her own pace, takes time to set in. When one is able to make peace with that aspect, the pressure is much less on us, and subsequently, on the child. It is important to mindfully dismantle internal frameworks and expectations that we may have carefully built over the years. It is extremely challenging but one has to keep working on it.
As a parent of a primarily non-verbal child (10 yr old) on the Autism Spectrum, I would like to outline a few pointers that have helped me on my journey, thus far—
–Focus less on the ‘why’ of Autism and more on the ‘how’ to work with the child.
-Try to empower yourself with basic skills to work with your child. It is not feasible to be completely dependent on external therapists, all the time. Post-Covid, most training and workshops are held virtually. One must make the most of it.
–Recognize that each child has an inherent potential and it is for us to bridge that gap and tap into it.
-Try to work on their Communication (be it through Sign language/PECS/ other AACs)
-Academics is not everything in life. While I agree imparting basic literacy and numeracy skills are important, but so are Activities of Daily Living (ADL) and Vocational Skills.
–Make learning fun for the child. Infuse learning with a degree of excitement & enthusiasm, through play, puzzles and games.
–Not everything that the child does (even repetitively) is to be taken negatively (unless the child is causing self-harm/harm to others). Try to look for the positives in behaviours and see if it can be channelized into something meaningful.
-Focus on developing the listening skills, attention skills, and perceptual skills of the child (auditory/visual).
-Try to provide as much exposure as you possibly can, to the child. Take them to parks, zoos, cinema halls, shopping malls etc. Travel with them. Prepare the child in advance. Write a Social Story for each trip, if need be, and /or provide them with appropriate visuals, but do not stop taking them out to public places/stop travelling altogether. Exposure to the outside world provides great learning opportunities for the child.
And, last but not the least, always take time out for yourself. As the saying goes, “you cannot pour from an empty cup”. No matter what you do, always take breaks, try and pursue a hobby and look after yourself!
Triveni is an Autism parent and a special educator.
You can also check out more blogs and articles here.
Also, check out videos by Dr Ram Kairam on Autism.
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