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5 Tips for Parents of Newly Diagnosed Autistic Child

Treatment and Support For ASD

Do you have a child who has recently been diagnosed or thought to have Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), As a parent, this news sends you reeling! You are probably wondering what will happen next? You may not know how to help your child or are confused about conflicting treatments? Or you have been told that ASD is an incurable lifelong condition, and nothing you will do matters. ASD is not something a person “grows out of,” but there are many treatments that can make a difference for your child. Here are five parenting tips that will help make life easier.

Tip 1:  Don’t Wait for a Diagnosis

As a parent of an ASD child or other related developmental delays, the best thing you can do is start treatment immediately.  Seek help as soon as you suspect there is something wrong. Don’t wait to see if your child will catch up or outgrow the problem. The earlier children on the autism spectrum get help, the greater the chance of successful treatment. Early intervention is important, and it may reduce symptoms.

Becoming the Advocate:

  • Learn about autism. The more you know, the better equipped you are to make the best decisions about your child
  • Become an expert on your child. What are the triggers that produce disruptive behaviors and what elicits a positive response? What causes your child stress? What calms your child?
  • Accept your child – quirks and all. Celebrate your child’s successes and stop comparing him/her to other children.  Feeling unconditional love and acceptance will benefit your child more than anything else.
  • Don’t give up. Don’t jump to conclusions about your child’s life.  Like all of us, everyone is different and there is no crystal ball to foresee the future.  Help your child grow and develop their abilities.

Tip 2: Helping Your Child Thrive

  • Be consistent. ASD children have difficulty applying what they learn in one situation to other situations. Creating consistency of environments will help your child learn. An example, find out what is being done at the therapist office and reinforcing those procedures at home.
  • Stick to a schedule. Children with ASD do best when they are on a highly structured schedule or routine. Set regular times for bed, meals, therapy, school and playtime. Keep disruptions at a mimumun.
  • Reward good behavior. Reinforcement of good behaviors will go a long way with ASD children.  “Catch them doing something good” and praise them.
  • Create a home safety zone. Designate a private area in our home, where your child can play, relax, and feel completely safe. This helps your child set boundaries that he/she will understand. Use pictures, colored tape to instruct your child about different areas.  You may have to safety proof the area if your child is prone to have tantrums.

Tip 3:  Nonverbal Communication

Connecting with your ASD child can be a challenge. Non-verbal communication includes the way you look at your child, by the tone of your voice, your body language, etc.  Remember, non-verbal ASD children are communicating with you all the time – you just need to learn their language.

  • Look for non-verbal clues. Pay attention to the sounds they make, their facial expressions, and they gesture.
  • Figure out the motivation behind the action. It is natural for all of us to feel upset when we are misunderstood or ignored. The same is true for autistic children. When ASD children act out it is usually because they are misunderstood. Throwing a tantrum is their way of letting us know that they are frustrated and are trying to get our attention.
  • Make time for play. Your ASD child is still a child. Schedule playtime when your child is more awake and refreshed.  Decide on activities that will make your child smile, laugh, and come out of their shell. There is a huge benefit for your child and you to spend enjoyable time together.  Enjoy it.
  • Know your child’s sensory sensitivities.  Many ASD children are hypersensitive to light, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Figure out what sights, sounds, smells, movements, textures, trigger your child to exhibit disruptive behaviors, and learn how to defuse the situation.

Tip 4: Create a Personalized Autism Treatment Plan

When putting together a treatment plan, know that there is no single best treatment plan.  Each child with autism has their own unique strengths and weaknesses.  However, is good plan will have the following:

  • Build on your child’s interests
  • Have a predictable schedule
  • Teach tasks in a series of small steps
  • Actively engage your child’s attention in structured activates
  • Provide regular reinforcement of behavior
  • Involve the parents

Source: National Institute of Mental Health

Tip 5: Find Help and Support

Don’t try to do everything yourself. Parenting isn’t easy and raising a special needs child is very demanding. Remember, if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else.

Find Additional Support

ASD – find a ASD support group in our area. Parents can ask questions, give advice, and lean on each other for support.

Respite Care – When you need to take a break or go to an important meeting, you can hire a temporary caregiver who will step in.

Individual, marital, or family counselling – if stress, anxiety or depression become a problem, seek professional help.

Free U.S. Government Services – Under the U.S. federal law known as the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), children with disabilities – including those with ASD – are eligible for a range of free and low-cost services. Check it out and be proactive.

Living with an autistic child is a challenge and it can be very overwhelming.  I personally know the ups and downs of this challenge. I have cried many tears, became frustrated, and know the pain of dealing with an autistic child. But I also know the smiles, laughter, successes, and joy that go along with this journey. I know that my family member is very much worth the effort. In my case, my life is very much richer because of him – I am grateful.

Written by PJ Larsen, Ed. D., Veteran classroom teacher, college professor, and adventure traveler.

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