Autism is a lifelong developmental disorder. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and can include challenges interacting with others and repetitive or restrictive behaviour. Indicators typically appear by age 2 or 3 although some associated delays can appear as early as 18 months. Diagnosing autism can be difficult as there are no definitive medical tests. Instead, a diagnosis is made based on developmental assessments and behavioural observations of your child. Parenting a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder poses significant challenges. If you suspect that your child is on the autism spectrum, seek a diagnosis as soon as possible. Early intervention is key to more positive outcomes later in life. Some medicines and behavioural therapies can help make related symptoms more manageable. Autism affects individuals differently so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. In addition to working with your healthcare provider on implementing a treatment plan, here are other everyday things you can do to help your child. Reward Good Behaviour Children with autism are often unsure how to navigate social situations. Positive reinforcement is an effective way to reinforce appropriate behaviors. It makes your child more likely to engage in that behaviour in the future. Be specific and deliver a reward immediately after the desired behaviour so they know exactly what they’re being rewarded for. Find ways to reward good behavior. Examples include delivering verbal praise, allowing extra playtime, or giving a small prize like a sticker or toy. To make positive reinforcement effective, it’s important to be consistent and provide a reward each time a desired behavior occurs. Stick to a Consistent Schedule Most people are able to go about their daily routine without needing a schedule. But children with autism do best when they have a structured routine which goes back to their need for consistency. Set up a regular schedule for your child with times for meals, activities, school, homework, and bedtime. It can be difficult but try to keep any disruptions to a minimum. Consider using a visual schedule with images and times to communicate upcoming tasks and make it easier to check off completed items. Then place the schedule where it’s clearly visible, such as in your child’s room or on the refrigerator. Seek Support From Others Parenting a child diagnosed with autism can be incredibly demanding. There will be times when you feel overwhelmed and even discouraged. It can feel like you’re completely alone. The good news though is that you aren’t as there are numerous resources available to you. Consider joining an autism support group. There you’ll be able to meet with other families who are dealing with the exact same challenges as you. Support groups are a great way to share information and get advice on dealing with specific scenarios. All parents need a break every now and then. Look into respite care where a caregiver looks after your child for several hours or days at a time. Use that time to look after your health, and recharge yourself physically and mentally. Author’s Bio Kym Wallis, the founding director of Higher Ranking has over 15 years of advertising sales, digital strategy, and business development experience. He is currently working as Digital Adviser for Catalyst Computers.
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