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The challenges of parenting a child with ASD can at times seem insurmountable. Every day will be filled with its own ups and downs between doctor appointments, therapies, behavioral challenges, and difficulties in communication.
Some days feel like a real roller coaster, especially when your autistic child is having trouble coping with their environment.
We found that riding out these ups and downs requires a little bit of self-discipline, encouragement, planning, consistency, and plenty of celebrating.
Have high expectations
Ups and downs come quite often in parenting, but when one is parenting a special needs child, the everyday challenges can seem to bring more downs than ups. That being the case, be flexible and, beyond that, be thankful when things are going right. Expect your child to achieve something positive during the day, every day. When he or she does, celebrate it.
During the “down” times, my husband and I have found that it is extremely important that we do not react with anger, or even frustration, to our son’s negative responses or behavior choices. He or she will receive your responses as validation for their behavior. Instead, keep making demands of him/her and never lower your expectations unless, with closer inspection, you find them to be unreasonable. In that scenario, modify your expectations but keep them at a high level. Remember, reasonable does not mean low.
Keep track of triggers
This is super duper tough because you still have a home to run, things to do, and possibly other children. And from experience, I know only too well those downs come at you thick and fast and leave you wondering where they came from. After enduring hideous meltdowns each and every weekend we suddenly realized that we needed to examine what led up to these mega meltdowns. In most cases there was a trigger like; they were overstimulated, had had a very busy day, were exhausted, hungry, tired to name a few.
I know it is hard to keep a mental note of what each day has looked like for your child, but if you can get a handle on this, then at least you are prepared and can often prevent the meltdown or the severity of it. The ups; well enjoy them, because this is your little person, being the very best version of themselves and that is worth enjoying and celebrating.
As with all children, a child with ASD is unique and it is vital to look beyond the autistic child signs and diagnosis and see the child. Being surrounded by neurotypical children and families can make the challenges even more noticeable. It is important to celebrate every milestone or challenge overcome – they are reminders of progress and hard work and provide hope for the future.
Realize that “normal” is not the same for everyone and that each family has its own definition of “normal.” Facing your challenges with perseverance, love, and a sense of humor will go a long way towards managing the ups and downs that come with an ASD child.
Respond, not react
Every child has ups and downs, and when your child has an ASD diagnosis, it can feel like a roller coaster ride. It’s important to know what not to do with an autistic child. Teach yourself to respond and not to react to your child’s struggles and challenges. Don’t take things like behavior, communication problems, or emotional distance personally.
Instead, take a deep breath, and insert a sense of calmness into your child’s stress. I find that meltdowns are usually a child’s means of communicating stress, sensory overload, or anxiety. Rather than punishing my child for acting out, I try to find the reason for the meltdown and help him to learn to manage the stress.