top 10 tips
People with ASD have a difficult time prioritizing and filtering important information. Therefore minimizing visual clutter can help them to tune out what they do not need and assist with relaxation at nighttime. Utilize organizers that categorize, toys and materials and help the person keep items they do not need out of sight. Storage bins that conceal visual clutter are helpful for filtering out. Check to see if the bedroom is noisy and has bright lighting. Is your child allergic to dust, mold or pets? If so, eliminate them from the bedroom. Avoid fluorescent lights; go for soft lighting instead and help them wind down prior to bed. A warm bath, deep breathing, story time and listening to calming music can also help. Redirect them back to bed if they get up throughout the night. Lastly, if there is profound sleep problems (approximately 75% of people with ASD suffer from sleep disturbances) seek a referral to a neurologist. Sleep is crucial for brain functioning, alertness and physical well-being. Affording your child a good night sleep can be a major step towards restoring a level of harmony in the household.
People with ASD frequently suffer from high levels of anxiety. It is essential to build physical exercise into their routine to reduce anxiety levels. Help build self-awareness about anxiety throughout the day. Anxiety occurs because of the high level of confusion and uncertainty your child has. This is why we see rigid behavior, with aversion to change. Because the world does change and our lives change, it is impossible for your child to keep things the same. Expanding their world is crucial for coping and growth. Have them gage their anxiety, helping them to understand the causes and how to manage it. If there is one area that is causing significant anxiety, such as school, then it is helpful to look at what aspects are unmanageable for them and make modifications where necessary. In some cases specialized medical assessments can be helpful to have blood, urine and fecal samples conducted to ensure physiological health is optimal. Psychotropic medication can be helpful to get anxiety levels under control. A psychiatrist is responsible for evaluating and monitoring psychotropic medications. If you or your child are very anxious medications maybe an additional tool to assist in coping.
Many families are under significant stressors, due to the diagnosis, services and overall demands placed upon them. Time after time we see families in crisis mode who are exhausted from the amount of services they participate in. Not only does this affect your child who is often overscheduled, but it is also effects, siblings, parents and marital relationships. Ensure you have family time and leisure time that is enjoyable and meets everyone needs. Take a good look at what services are really important and helpful to the person. Psychotherapy and support groups can be helpful outlets if you are experiencing emotional turmoil.
Food… For Thought
“If only he would eat” is a common expression heard. Helping your child feel comfortable around food is important. Include them in the process of purchasing and preparing food, to help with desensitizing themselves. Encourage eating at the table together, so food becomes part of their family routine. Talk to a nutritionist about the essential vitamins and minerals a person need, to ensure they are not under nourished. In some people with ASD they seem to expand their eating habits as they get older. However, eating is a very complicated issue for people with ASD and involves many aspects of the person’s physiology system.
Making sure your child is ready for toileting is the first step. Can they stay dry for 30-45 minutes? This may be an indicator that they are physically ready. Routine (help them know what to expect), visual icons and non-verbal cues are important. You may need to work on reducing fears about the change from the diaper or pull-ups to using the potty. Sound sensitivity (as some toilets are very noisy) can also be a factor in determining whether they accept using the toilet. Find times when you are dedicated to completing the toileting process. Remember, people with ASD like routines, so once they have established a new routine they are likely to want to adopt it and integrate it into their lives. However, if you are inconsistent, they may be confused and this can cause regression or result in lack of success in this area.
Tantrums can be challenging to manage. Tantrums may result in the confusion of the environment, communication problems, not getting needs met, physiological or neurological issues and feeling incompetent. They may include aggressive behavior such as hitting, kicking, pulling hair and screaming. Ensuring their safety is essential and being aware of triggers to tantrums can help keep your child safe. Setting limits is important for all children to understand. Where possible, intervening prior to tantrum can decrease the intensity. When safe to do so, stopping and waiting until the tantrum has finished is important. If very serious and your child is in danger of hurting themselves or others, emergency services may need to be called.
Using your child’s strengths and interest to build upon learning can be a great way to assist him or her. In some circumstances it can build motivation, interest and trust between you both. We often excel at the things we enjoy! So this can also be a great way to expand a person’s abilities. If however, the interest becomes a barrier, due to its intensity, limit it when it makes sense. Because people with ASD have difficulties with organization they can spend hours upon hours doing homework, which can lead to frustration and refusal to complete tasks. Work with the school to modify the amounts of homework where necessary and provide guidelines for how much time your child can spend on homework per night.
Friendships and relationships are the heart of our lives. Making connections with friends to laugh, cry and share with help create meaning in our lives. Play dates, park trips, bike riding, swimming, hide and seek, and dress up are games that children love. Set up regular play dates for fun time. For older children and adults going to the movies, eating out and sharing interests are ways to keep connections. Building natural support systems are vital. Don’t be shy, find the child in you, forget the chores and play and laugh.
Safety in the home and street are often big concerns for you and your child. Lack of referencing of others and accurately assessing the environment can lead to poor judgment, impulsivity and lack of awareness. Helping the person to tune into others and understand whether a situation is safe or unsafe is crucial. Non-verbal cues can be helpful for this. Pick up a book on road, home and stranger danger. RDI® helps a person zone into their environment, via gazing and referencing, co-regulating with others, which are fundamental for the person to independently assess safe situations.
Having positive relationships with your school team is important when working together for you and your child. Regular meetings to address goals, objectives and strategies can help keep everyone focused on progress. Evaluate where your child is sitting in the class, near the front by the teacher for focusing can help. Is your child organizing themselves in the classroom? Teachers and aides can assist by giving non-verbal cues and indirect cues to assist with communication. What kind of prompts are used to fade support, how is progress documented, does the person have games and sports built into their recess time? Homework logs that specify homework tasks can alleviate miscommunication when your child gets home.