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I Just Learned My Child Is Autistic, What Now? Part II – Autism

The very last article I wrote was on this same subject. I found that I had a great deal more to say than I initially thought. The reality is that there are a lot of things that more or less apply to “normal” children, on which a certain amount of “spin” most be employed when dealing with Autistic children.

I wanted to continue to expand on my advice, base on things I figured out have really mattered along the way so far.

As such, allow me to continue the former article, by adding some things I think may be helpful.

Never Assume What Your Child Can or Cannot Do

Your child may ultimately become able to do everything any “normal” child can do, plus. That having been said, he or she may not ever learn to do many things that “normal” children easily master.

The trick, if trick there be (and there is), is to continue to try to build on those things of which your child is capable. You must be ready to watch your child fail even more than the average youngster. What makes that more difficult, is the realization that all that failure may not yield success.

Even though this is the case, you must never accept that your child cannot do something without a great deal of effort on your and their part to be sure it is the case.

Equally important, is that you refuse to accept the idea that others presumably working in your child’s behalf have “put in enough effort” to answer, “Can he or she do this or that?” in a definitive fashion, without being sure just how much time has been spent.

For this point, the “cardinal rule” is, “It will almost never hurt to spend more time and effort working on a given skill or ability.” And that applies to you and others.

Obviously, the more significant or important the skill, the more time and effort should probably be expended.

Know Your Child’s “Triggers”

Autistic children truly do have a tendency to “melt down” in circumstances that would have zero effect or impact on normal children. Put another way, when you deal with Autistic children, you need to learn what causes him or her to “melt down.”

There are two very important reasons for this:

  1. You can make things much easier on yourself and your child by minimizing meltdowns. Meltdowns take time, they take work to remediate (to get your child back to a “reasonable state”), and they take their toll on both parent(s) and child(ren). The also affect how others view you as a parent and your child
  2. Figuring out how to “push the boundaries” can make it so you can “thicken your child’s skin” so that he or she is less likely to have meltdowns. 

You may—in fact probably willnever mitigate all meltdown scenarios, but you can greatly reduce them—and I promise, it will be well worth it.

Be Careful When Choosing Battles

This is one of those points that’s relevant to “normal” children. The truth is though, it’s proven far more important for my Autistic child. Why? Well, because each battle can be orders of magnitude more difficult than with the average child.

For Autistic children, because of the former point, you may experience a great deal more “pain” in dealing with things that are considered “standard expectations” for children of a similar age as your child.

The “final point” surrounding this, is to realize that a lot of “normal behaviors” are not so much beyond your child’s abilities, as not so important as to cause you to concern yourself over them to the same degree as does the average parent of a non Autistic child.

Talk To Your Child

This sounds so basic, but the reality is it’s an entirely different experience dealing with Autistic versus non-Autistic children.

We can unintentionally act towards our children, in ways that undermine our interaction with them.

When you have a barely verbal or entirely non-verbal child, there’s an (errant) tendency, to fail to talk to them as you would with normal children.

I have long maintained that you ought to talk to very young children. That in fact, you need to talk to them at levels far beyond those they display. I’m not saying that’s something you do at all times, but that much of the time, they can be spoken to at much higher levels than you realize.

This applies to Autistic children as well, whether or not they are far behind on communication (or even non-verbal).

Maybe, just maybe, your child will not benefit at all from this. On the other hand, what does it hurt to try?

Talk to your child. Ask him or her questions you know he or she cannot or will not answer. Tell him or her things as if he or she were entirely able to understand them.

Chances are good you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Allow Your Child To Experiment

I was sitting in my vehicle at my son’s school, when I got to see something that I wasn’t at all expecting. A child who is normally “handed off” from teacher to parent (literally from the hands of one, to the hands of the other), was “let go” by the teacher before the mother had a hand on him.

The child—looking very Autistic in his mannerisms—moved excitedly away from the mother.

It was initially more than a little disconcerting until I saw that he was headed for a very specific destination. You see, he had seen something on the front of one of the local school busses, that he wanted desperately to inspect more closely (and probably understand).

Unfortunately, his mother caught him just as he was looking at and handling it. As expected, she took hold of him, and ushered him to her vehicle, so as to get him “tucked safely inside.”

She probably had zero understanding what she had done.  You see, she took him away from something that would have probably meant growth (probably without realizing, and likely feeling a “time crunch” too), as well as increasing her “capital” with the boy.

Whenever I can do so, I let my child experiment in scenarios where no harm will occur as a result of him so doing. I advise parent of Autistic folks to do likewise.

So, here we are again, out of time and words. I may pen yet another article on this subject, but for the time being, I wish you the best of times, and thank you for reading.

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