There are several skills nurses need when assisting mothers of an autistic child. These are normally acquired by special training and include practical medical skills as well as emotional and relational skills. It is important for a nurse to build a relationship with the mother in order to help the child reach his or her potential. The following skills are also important:
- A nurse needs empathy when dealing with mothers of an autistic child but also firmness and a positive attitude.
- Familiarity with the care of autistic children and the ability and knowledge to answer questions are essential to build trust.
- The nurse needs to know how to provide family-centered and culturally sensitive care.
- Nurses who are confident to take the lead and are proactive in times of transition with the child are using skills that will benefit the mother and build confidence and security.
What Support Can Nurses Offer?
Once a child has been diagnosed as autistic, the mother is often in a state of shock and has anxious feelings about the future. A nurse can provide support in the following ways:
- Putting the mother in touch with local and national autism support groups.
- Informing the mother about the basics of autism spectrum disorder and what she can expect to see in her child’s development.
- Assistance in selecting therapies and programs to help the child and explaining what is involved in each of these.
- Acting as an advocate between parents and health care systems or schools.
It is important that the nurse has this type of information accessible and knows where to find answers if need be. After diagnosis, she should allow the mother to air her concerns or fears, and show understanding and compassion.
What Training Do Nurses Need?
In most countries a general nursing degree takes three years of training to complete. Thereafter, the nurse can do further training to qualify in specialized areas. There are several courses that will qualify nurses to work with autistic children and their mothers. Some of these are one year post-graduate courses while others are short term courses in specific areas. Training to consider include:
- Nurse practitioner
- Pediatric nursing
- Developmental disorders
- Postgraduate certificate in Asperger’s Syndrome
- Mental disorders
Practical experience is part of training, and a nurse should aim at working with a cross-section of autistic children to gain experience. This can often be arranged as part of a course or at a local home or institution. Practical nursing will prepare them for answering questions about topics such as potty training and toileting, eating and personal hygiene.
Training will provide skills nurses need when assisting mothers of an autistic child. This can be of great benefit in setting the course for the child's life. Mothers will appreciate a confident, knowledgeable nurse who is able to answer their questions, provide support and bring comfort when necessary.