Once a fortnight we hold Wellbeing Wednesday sessions in our Charity’s headquarters. Wellbeing Wednesday is a safe and supportive space for AP members to share advice, to have a chat and to have a giggle – laughter is one of the best medicines. In our latest Wellbeing Wednesday session parents shared their top tips on parenting autistic children and what to expect themselves. These tips are invaluable at any point of your autism journey.
Support Networks are vital:
Finding a support network that truly understands what you are going through as a parent and what your child is going through is an extremely helpful part of your journey. Friends may be sympathetic, but having people who are also in a similar situation can really lift a weight off your shoulders.
Knowledge is key:
Learning about your child’s diagnosis and strategies to help your child can make such a difference. Not only does knowledge help your child, it allows you a better understanding of what your child experiences and the support they need.
Adapt your adaptability:
As a parent of an autistic child things may not always go to plan or on time. Reminding yourself that it’s ok and adapting to your child’s needs will spare you of a lot of stress.
Consistency creates calm:
For an autistic child, routine is essential. As a parent, creating consistency with routines can really help to alleviate your child’s anxiety levels as they know what to expect. Using visual time tables are a great way to implement routines and enables your child to see what is going to happen.
Talk about transitions:
Autistic children can be resistant to change and this can lead to meltdowns and shutdowns. When changes are going to happen it’s important to talk to and prepare your child. This could be by creating social stories, using visuals, even using a calendar of when the change is going to happen.
Language and Communication:
As a parent you may have to adjust your language in a way for your child to understand. If your child is literal you may need to be extremely specific when communicating with them. For example, the saying ‘Chin up’ may be literally taken as an action. Also, if a child is non-verbal finding what works best for your child whether that be PECS or Makaton and ensuring that this is carried through in settings outside of the home.
Don’t assume that because your child is talking, they understand what is being said. Similarly, don’t assume that because your child is quiet, they are coping or they have nothing to say. This can be really difficult for parents and it is a process of learning your child’s triggers, behaviours and reactions.
You are going to have a lot of appointments regarding your child’s needs and the support they are entitled too. Once you have had an appointment parents find it useful to keep track of what was said and the date of the appointment to use as evidence if needed.
You are not just a paranoid parent:
Many parents can tend to believe that they are a paranoid parent or that they are a nuisance when liaising with others about their child’s needs. You are not. You are your child’s voice and you are fighting for their rights. That is a super parent and advocating for your child is crucial for them. You are doing an amazing job and there should be no shame in reinforcing what you believe is best suited to your child’s needs.
You will grow a thick skin:
When your child is behaving non-typically in public parents say they have felt a sense of embarrassment, particularly when their child is having a meltdown and they can feel the eyes of onlookers glaring at them. As a parent of an autistic child you will grow a very thick skin. The most important thing in these situations is focusing on keeping your child safe.
Each Experience is Different:
No child or person on the spectrum is the same. It is such a diverse condition and what may work for one child may not work for yours. As one of our parents so beautifully put autistic people are ‘Totally different, slightly the same.’ You may encounter people who compare your child to their knowledge of autism and that can be frustrating. Reminding yourself that autism presents differently can be really helpful.
My top tip as the chameleon would be to listen to and research autistic adults as we provide an insight into our world. There are many great books out there and in our parent library and with the internet ever growing there are some amazing Autistic YouTubers, Social Media accounts and blogs to follow.
Please remember that you are the specialist, you know your child better than anyone and you are doing a great job.
Thank you for reading!
Cerys the Chameleon.