3 Ways to Reach Your Child with Autism
Many parents of children with Autism often report that it is as if their child is ‘in their own world’. The child seems happy to be with themselves and appears to be experiencing the world in a way nobody else understands, which often makes parents feel alienated or that their own child is ‘unreachable’. It is true that children on the Spectrum experience life in a unique way, but that does not mean that they dislike interaction and do not enjoy the warmth of a parent’s love just like any other child.
So here are 3 ways to help you reach your child in their wonderful, different world:
Understand their differences
The approach with children on the Spectrum has predominantly been very directive with little flexibility to accept the difficulties these children face. We were offended if they didn’t look us in the eye while we spoke, even though reducing the visual input of attending to our face was actually helping the child to listen. We told them to stop when they jumped up and down or flapped their hands in excitement; lacking the perspective to realise that this was a means of expression for the child. Understanding and accepting the different ways your child responds to the world is one of the first windows you can open into their life experience.
Tune into their interests
We have all heard about the quirky enthusiasms children on the Spectrum have; from dinosaurs to logos, from street signs to ancient Roman history. Although it is important to teach them the social skills that will help them know when speaking on these topics is and isn’t appropriate, it is equally important not to try to stamp these interests out. Rather, they can be used as an avenue to connect with your child. Get interested in their passions, learn about them and use them to engage your child in other activities, eg. Create a scrapbook together of different dinosaurs – a great opportunity for interaction and social enjoyment.
Accept all methods of communication
Although many parents strive towards this goal, some children on the Spectrum may always have limited verbal abilities. This does not mean that the child can’t communicate. Gesture, behaviour, facial expression, signing, alternative communication (iPads, PODD books) are all ways in which you can support your child’s understanding of your message and allow them to express their messages in turn. Acknowledging the method that works best, rather than pushing an approach that is not realistic or helpful for the child, will build their motivation to communicate as they realise its effectiveness.
The most important thing is to keep faith in your child and appreciate every special moment they give you. They are not a closed door, they just need the right key.