Every year, millions of children are diagnosed with a range of learning disorders, which usually stay with them throughout their entire life. Intellectual Disability, Specific Learning Disorders, Dyslexia, and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are far too common. Living with these conditions can prove to be tough not just for the children suffering from them but also for their families trying to raise them.
Autism is by far the most common developmental delay of them all. Children with autism are known to have delays in social and communicational skill development. Therefore, they find it difficult to adjust to typical social situations.
Understandably this can take a toll on the parents. Most parents do everything they can to teach their autistic children how to function normally. However, the trials of doing so are incredibly challenging.
If you are a parent who has a child/children scoring high on the autism spectrum, here are a few things you can consider to raise them healthily.
Understand the condition
There are far too many parents who get frustrated with their children because they don’t understand the condition, let alone navigate it. It would be best if you accepted that the state is part of their lives, and therefore yours as well. It would be wise to read up and learn about the condition now that it profoundly affects you and your family.
Once you have learned about autism, ensure you read up on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). It is the go-to approach/treatment when it comes to dealing with autistic individuals.
Read up on ABA online with the help of resources or a full-fledged degree. It will help you to understand better what your child is going through and how to be ready for any challenges that may come your way. A 20-minute read could completely change the relationship dynamic between you and your kid.
Enforce rewards and punishments
You have to remember that these children take considerably longer to learn things than normal children. Therefore, you need to supplement the learning process in whatever way you can. Go back to the basics of psychology and practice what Skinner and Pavlov taught.
One of the core ABA principles suggests using positive and negative reinforcement when teaching your children. To encourage positive behavior, pat your kid on the back, verbally praise them or give them something they enjoy, like candy. To discourage negative behavior, take away something positive in their environment (a toy maybe) to teach them that their actions have consequences.
It may take a while because autistic children learn a little slower than usual. Stay focused and reinforce the principles, and you might start seeing the difference in due time. However, it is also crucial to not associate negative reinforcement with cruelty, nor do you have to be too harsh with them.
Let them socialize with other children
You cannot let these children grow up in a bubble. Autistic children may have special needs. However, the more you remind them that they are different, the more likely it is that they feel stigmatized. Other than autism, these children could grow up with complexes if you constantly reiterate their illness to them.
What you can do is to expose them to other children. Just because these children have social interaction and communication issues, it doesn’t mean you don’t give them a chance to meet people. One of the best ways autistic children can learn social interaction is by meeting peers and modeling their behavior accordingly.
Put them in a school that understand their needs
Autism is a learning disorder. Therefore you must enroll your child in a school that can facilitate their learning adequately. Exposing them to a learning environment in which they are constantly reminded of their inability to keep up with everyone else will do more damage than good in the long run.
Though special needs schools may be slightly more expensive, it would be wise to enroll them in one. They can’t cope with the demands of the regular educative stream. They need to be in an environment where ABA-certified teachers and psychologists monitor their progress.
Therefore, if you want your children to grow up happy and healthy, make sure you educate them at their own pace, rather than a regular child’s pace.
Develop a relationship with them
Unfortunately, far too many parents create an emotional barrier between themselves and their special children. One can understand how parents feel to some extent, but it is essential to remember that the child shouldn’t suffer for something they have no control over.
Develop a relationship with your autistic child and create a nurturing environment of positivity and love. Not only will this help the child open up to you, but the more favorable environment there is, the stronger the chance is that they will become higher-functioning individuals in later years.
We cannot stress how important it is to make these children feel that they are loved. For far too long, they have thought that they are different. They don’t need that reiterated in their own home.
Raising healthy autistic kids is a challenge. But as these children grow up, they will begin to function better if given a conducive environment. As a parent, the areas you need to focus on are social, educational, and, most importantly, the home environment. Once you manage these three domains, you stand the best chance to raise your children healthily and give them a chance at normalcy.