Keeping an autistic child healthy requires special attention in certain areas, and short of knowing what they are precisely, even the best intentions can be fruitless, or even counterproductive for the child’s physical and mental wellbeing, unfortunately.
On the flip side, as long as you know what you are doing, keeping them happy and healthy doesn’t necessarily have to be too difficult either. Successfully parenting autistic children revolves around a few basic rules, and these are the core principles that parents must learn first before we discuss the more specific steps to take.
Understanding the Fact that Your Child Thinks Differently is Extremely Important
A special needs child cannot process information in the same manner as a child of the same age without autism. That isn’t always a difficulty, though, as this can also be a huge advantage in certain situations. Several famous personalities and downright genius figures throughout the history of humanity were on the spectrum, and they had capabilities that no ordinary person could even fathom back then.
To provide some context on the statement, let’s take a brief look at some of those prominent figures with autism who are still active today:
- Anthony Hopkins: One of the greatest actors of all time
- Dan Ackroyd: A highly successful comedian
- Kim Peek: True genius with a photographic memory
- Stephen Wiltshire: Genius artist with a photographic memory, who can draw intricate details of every landscape he has ever seen only once!
- Magnus Carlsen: Genius chess player with unrivaled and unmatched records
According to scientific research conducted by multiple psychiatric institutes across the globe, and inconsistent connection between high IQ (learn more at IQ-tests.org) and autism does exist. Although, there is no guarantee or discernible way to determine whether or not your child falls into that category right away. Exactly, what we are trying to establish here is the fact that children on the spectrum think differently, which may not necessarily go against them in the future.
Autistic children are often able to perceive things in ways that we cannot, and that is exactly why parents must understand and respect the fact that their children process information in a different manner. Once that understanding has been reached, it would be easier to communicate with each other successfully, for children and parents.
For example, if you want to stop your child from putting random things in his/her mouth and getting sick from it (post the standard age for such behavior), this understanding of how he/she thinks will prove to be infinitely useful.
Go through the following points as we discuss the importance of oral sensory behavior and how to redirect it with positive outcomes:
- Understand that it’s essential for individual children to chew to stay calm
- Please don’t force them to stop, but replace what they are chewing
- Find out what kind of things they put in their mouth and then replace them with similarly designed, but harmless edibles/chewable
- Consult with a dietician to put the child on a proprioceptive diet
- Massage the gums regularly
- The harder a food item is to chew, the more they will like it; make it a healthy option
- Oral activities such as blowing bubbles, pulling/drinking through straws and whistling are all effective deterrents
- Increase their daily physical activity if they can take it; the release of nervous energy can do wonders here
Devising Strategies for Fruitful Interactions: The Core Principles of Communication
As explained, it is essential to establish a method of communication which is specific to not just autistic children, but also specific to the particular child in question. If you want to successfully impart knowledge about the basics of hygiene and healthy practices, get to master the following core principles of interaction:
- Preparation: The more you know, the better you will become at this; read, listen and view information and updates all the time
- Attention: The child may interact in ways that would not be noticeable to you unless you are paying close attention
- Customization: Every child is different, so you will need to add personalization aspects to your knowledge and make them more relevant to the child
- Implementation/Experimentation: As children are often unpredictable, you will need to try out a few strategies for effective communication first, before finding the right one
- Standardization: Once you have found the perfect way to communicate and make them listen to you, make it a standard
- Regularity and familiarity: Children with even the mildest forms of autism find it distressing when their routine disrupted – stick to the tried and tested standard methods religiously
- Mental Wellbeing in a Social Environment: Utilization of Social Stories to Help Your Child
Social interaction is one of the biggest concerns in the mind of both autistic children and their parents. It’s challenging to predict how a child may or may not react in a specific social situation, because several factors, such as the ones below, will be relevant to determine what course of events:
- How prepared the children are for facing that specific scenario
- How the others in that social setting will behave
- What kind of autism the child has
- On which point of the spectrum the symptoms of autism can be attributed to
- How well prepared the parents and teachers are to help the child deal with negative experiences in social settings
As should be obvious, there are far too many variables here to ignore, which is why we now go back to one of the basics, which is a preparation with the help of social story examples.
Carol Gray’s social stories have been helping autistic children to prepare for and also deal with unfamiliar social experiences since 1991. Social accounts for autism have been long established as a useful tool to not just interact with children who have learning disabilities, but also to impart large volumes of knowledge about social behavior concisely and effectively.
You can find a massive collection of autism social stories free of charge on the Autism Parenting Magazine. While these may seem like simple social stories for kids to the average person, children on the spectrum will find Carol Gray’s social stories to be particularly interesting. To define how autism social story examples can help kids, the following points should prove to be beneficial for parents in particular:
- Social stories for autism help those on the spectrum to communicate with each other effectively and productively
- Properly formulated social story examples can also teach them how to behave with others without autism, in a social setting
- Autism social stories provide children with intentional clues regarding how and why they should behave
- Autism social story examples are often seen as guidebooks by the kids; they find it easier to cope with negative experiences
The best part about social stories for kids is that you can even learn to write a few yourself and help your children, as well as others. It is critical that the fragile mental health of children on the spectrum is protected, and that we also prepare them to handle situations in which parents will not always be able to control.
Hopefully, this guide will help you to encourage your child to live a healthy and happy life!