Raising an autistic child can be an overwhelming experience for the parents. However, with a little bit of planning and effort, it may not be a difficult task to carry out. Read on to know more.
By Dr Samir Parikh
Are you a parent of an autistic child? Do you often struggle to carry out the responsibilities of a parent just because your child is autistic? Remember, all it requires is patience and understanding on your part.
From understanding the diagnosis, its implications, impact on the child’s lifestyle as well as the parental lifestyles, many parents struggle to raise an autistic child. Despite the increasing awareness about children and adolescent’s mental health in India, mental illnesses are still shrouded in misconceptions and stigma.
Due to such limitations, many parents often find it difficult to understand the autism spectrum disorders, and thereby face challenges in providing adequate support to their children.
Following are 9 key points to help parents raise a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder:
1. First and foremost, educate yourself about the condition. If your child has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, it is important for you to understand the connotations of such a condition. It is essential to gain an accurate and complete understanding of the implications of such a disorder, preferably from an expert.
2. Do not ignore signs. As parents, you may notice some unusual behaviour in our child, but ignore them, denying the likelihood of a medical condition. However, it is important for parents to be aware of the warning signs and try to identify such disorders at the earliest. Remember, earlier interventions have the greatest efficacy.
3. Be consistent in your parenting styles. Children with autism are likely to get uncomfortable with changes in their routines or surroundings. Therefore, it is important to ensure that you behave consistently with your child, giving similar reactions to similar behaviours. This helps the child form associations between actions and reactions, and thereby can help you in modifying behavioural patterns more adaptively.
Go through the below article to find out about some great methods to make learning at home a fun-filled and fruitful journey for children who fall under the autism spectrum disorder.
4. Plan your child’s education according to his/her potential. Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder are likely to have co-morbid learning difficulties, party attributed to the child’s inability to attend to process information as compared to his or her peers. Therefore, it is important for the parents to remember that, instead of pushing the child to cope with the existing education system, focus on gauging the child’s abilities, and help the child fulfil his/her potential. Even in India, there are organisations that offer inclusive facilities focusing on the special needs of such children.
5. Avoid falling prey to stigmatization. To help your child adjust to the environment around him/her, it is important for you as a parent to not feel ashamed or stigmatized of the condition. Autism is not a fault in your child or a result of your faulty parenting. It is a medical condition, and the child has the right to be allowed to live a normal life. Therefore, it is necessary for you to embrace the reality, thereby helping both yourself as well as your child deal with the potential implications of this disorder.
6. Be accepting of your child. It is important for you to accept your child’s limitations as well as strengths. Pay attention to the child’s smaller and trivial successes. Don’t compare your child to others, but give your child unconditional love and support.
7. Make efforts to connect to your child. Children from the autism spectrum might find it a challenge to communicate. However, do not let these limitations hinder your emotional bond with the child. Pay attention to the non-verbal cues and make an effort to understand the child’s language of communicating with you. It is important for the parents to make an extra effort, as this is beneficial not just for the child, but also serves as a reward for the parental investment entailed while raising an autistic child.
8. Self-care is essential. Looking after an autistic child can be taxing, physically as well as emotionally. Therefore, it is important for you as parents to take out time for yourselves. This is not being selfish, as it is necessary for you to ensure your own health to allow you to support your child adequately.
9. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Remember, you are not alone. If you find it difficult to overcome the challenges faced by your child, do not hesitate to seek the support of other parents in autism support groups or professional mental health experts.
The author is the Director – Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Fortis National Mental Health Program, Fortis Healthcare
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