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Essential Tips for Parenting a Child with Autism

written by: Sharon Dominica • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 12/18/2010

Parenting a child with autism can be a challenging, but an amazing experience. Here are some ideas and tips to help you through your journey.

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    Finding out that your child has been diagnosed with autism can be a difficult time for most parents. However that is just the beginning of a challenging, but incredible journey. Here are some ideas and tips to help you with parenting a child with autism.

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    Learn more About the Condition:

    The first step toward helping your child with autism is to make an effort to learn more about the condition. A lot of resources on autism are available. Understand more about how your child is different, and accept your child as they are. Also learn about treatments and intervention for autism that have been proven effective. Understanding about the condition will help you to communicate with healthcare providers in a better way. It will also make it easier for you to plan for your child's future.

    Some reliable resources on the internet are the Autism Research institute website and the website of the Autism Society

    Two books that are worth reading are Facing Autism: Giving Parents Reasons for Hope and Guidance for Help, by Lynn Hamilton and The Autistic Spectrum: A Parents' Guide to Understanding and Helping Your Child, by Lorna Wing.These books provide information about autism, its prognosis and various treatments. They also give a lot of advice and tips for parents new to autism.

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    Parenting a Child with Autism: Focus on your Child’s Abilities:

    Children with autism are different from other children in many ways. Learn to appreciate these differences. Focus on your child’s abilities and work on building up their talents and special gifts. They may not have good communication and language skills, but may be highly gifted in art, math, or music. Provide your child exposure to a variety of activities and hobbies, and help him or her develop and train the areas he or she is interested in.

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    Start Intervention Early:

    Don’t waste a lot of time on diagnosis, and confirming diagnosis. Instead, start interventions as soon as possible. Early intervention is said to be the most effective strategy, and can help children with autism gain a lot of skills. Early intervention is usually done by trained professionals like doctors, psychologists, special educators and occupational therapists.

    Early intervention programs aim at improving the development of the child's sensory systems through Sensory Integration Therapy, modifying behavior, and teaching pre-school skills. Find the nearest early intervention center and visit it regularly. Children with autism who attend early intervention programs are also often able to integrate into regular school.

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    Schedule your Day:

    Children with autism need routine and schedule in their lives. Schedule your week, and try to follow the schedule as much as possible. Try not to keep rearranging your house or changing things in it. Make a place for things in the house and keep things in the same place. All this will help your child feel safe and comfortable in the house.

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    Focus on Independence Early in Life:

    Adults with autism can live and work independently; however you need to focus on their independence early in life. Help your child perform self care independently, and without much support. Help your child learn to eat independently, and dress independently. Also, try to your child involved in some other housekeeping activities like rinsing plates or wiping up spills.

    One idea to improve independence is to make a chart. Make a table in which the first column has small pictures of the tasks your child is supposed to do. Each day, you can mark all the tasks your child carried out during the day. If your child completed all the tasks, you can give a reward. Use this chart to motivate your child to complete all the assigned tasks.

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    Be Consistent with Behavior Therapy:

    Your child’s therapist or special educator may suggest some behavior therapy strategies to be used. Be consistent with these. Every single time the child exhibits a problem behavior, you need to respond in the exact same way. This is very essential to help your child decrease maladaptive behaviors.

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    Carry on Interventions at Home:

    Your child’s therapist and special educator may be teaching your child various skills. Observe the treatment process and continue interventions at home. Keep a small notebook in which you record the things you are going to do at home with your child. Give opportunities for your child to practice skills that have been learnt. This will help him or her retain, and generalize newly learnt skills. Finally, record your child's small achievements, as well as problems you face and discuss them with your child's doctors and therapists. It will help them plan a more effective course of treatment.

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    Find a Support Group:

    Parents of children with autism, too, need support. Find a support group of parents like you. The group will be a place to make new friends and share your burdens. But it will also be a great place to get more information, ideas and practical solutions. You can find the nearest support group on the internet, or ask your doctor and therapists if they know of any.

    Parenting a child with autism is hard, but very rewarding. I hope you found these ideas useful.

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    Autism Society of America. (2000). Next Steps: A Guide for Families New to Autism. Wisconsin: Autism Society of America.

    Early Support Pilot Program. (2004). Information for parents: Autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) and related conditions. Nottingham: DFES Publications.