Your child’s autism diagnosis can result in mixed emotions. On one hand, you may be relieved — knowledge can be empowering, after all. On the other, you may still have much to learn about autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and find the potential impact upon your family’s lives daunting.
Your child may experience a range of symptoms, from difficulty coping with stimuli, to behavior which exhibits as inflexible or obsessive. It is important to remember that just because your child is not neurotypical, this doesn’t mean they can’t lead an intellectually and socially rich life.
Often the best response to an ASD diagnosis is education. It is important for you to learn as much as you can about the spectrum in general, along with your child’s individual strengths and areas of difficulty. This can be very much a part of who they are and how they see the world. Therefore, often the best approach is adaptation. Discover ways to help them navigate the world through the lens of their neuroatypical mindset.
Tools for Playtime
Play serves an important function during the development of any child. Your approach to play can also be a useful tool in helping your autistic child to thrive, from helping build their communication skills to encouraging their adoption of social behavior.
Research has shown that the correct utilization of pictures can help stimulate positive emotions in children with ASD. Those on the spectrum can also have difficulties with executive function —they find it difficult to complete tasks without being able to envisage the end product. Images can help with this too. You can use photographs or illustrations explaining how to build with blocks, or explain the rules of games.
There are also toys that are useful to nurture and soothe children who experience ASD. Board games, in particular, can be effective in reinforcing social skills through the use of set rules and turn-taking. Certain musical instruments — like ukulele or recorder — can also stimulate your child intellectually, while developing fine motor skills such as hand-eye coordination.
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Adoption of Technology
We live at a time in which greater access to advanced technology presents many benefits. This is also true for accessing tools that can help children on the spectrum to thrive. The tech market today presents products that can assist in improving their communication, and encourage their independence.
Virtual Reality is rising in popularity for therapeutic scenarios. For children with autism, this tech can help them increase their social awareness in a safe environment. Simulations have been produced that help children more accurately interpret facial and body language cues. VR apps have also been used to help them respond appropriately to challenging situations such as crossing a busy road.
For many children with ASD, approaching unfamiliar surroundings filled with new people can be a source of anxiety. Greater access to telemedicine is proving to be particularly useful in this regard. Connecting with their healthcare provider remotely can be a more comfortable way for your child to take their appointments. They will be in surroundings they find familiar and soothing, which can make them more receptive to communications with their doctor.
Improving Social Interactions
One of the core behavioral traits across the spectrum is difficulty with social interactions. There can be a variety of contributors to this, from difficulty reading the emotions of others, to issues with sensory processing. It is therefore imperative that your response to your child’s diagnosis includes a strategy for helping them navigate social situations.
Interaction with animals can be an excellent gateway into improving interpersonal abilities. Studies have shown that autistic children who live with dogs present a more developed range of social skills than those who don’t. Indeed, there is evidence that children who regularly interact with any kind of pet are more likely to introduce themselves and respond to questions.
Images have proven to be useful in effective communication development. Particularly for children who are non-verbal, the early introduction of picture-based interaction gives them a vital pathway to communicating with the world. Adoption of the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) can encourage your child to socialize, alongside providing a key to their independence.
How Can You Help Children With Autism Thrive?
Your child’s diagnosis of ASD may well present daunting challenges. But these are also opportunities for you to gain a deeper understanding of who they are, and how they see the world. By adopting strategies that work with your child’s symptoms, rather than against them, you can help provide vital tools that have long-term positive effects on their life.
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Sam Bowman writes about families, wellness, and how the two merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.
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