3 Important Ways You Can Support Children with Autism at Home
Updated: Jun 9, 2022
While true that autism is not something children can simply grow out of, there are many forms of treatment available in Singapore — such as educational therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy — that can help children with autism acquire the skills they need to overcome developmental challenges. Early intervention centres and special needs childcare services are thus important considerations when raising autistic children. However, it is also important that children with autism get the support they need at home from their parents.
As parents, raising children with autism can be challenging, and many are unsure about how they can best help their ASD-diagnosed child at home. At MindChamps Allied Care, we understand this, and have thus put together this piece to guide parents in this regard.
Here are five ways you can support your child with autism at home:
1. Ensure Consistency Wherever Possible
While child therapy can impart valuable skills to children with autism, it is often a struggle for autistic children to apply these skills in different settings. In other words, what your child learns in therapy may not translate to their behaviour at home unless you create a home environment that encourages them to continue practising the techniques they have learnt outside. Find out what your child is learning at therapy or at the early intervention centre, and facilitate their continuation of these techniques at home to reinforce their learning.
Parents should also be consistent in the way they interact with children with autism, which albeit seemingly straight-forward, can be difficult to achieve when dealing with challenging behaviours at home. However, be sure to exercise patience and never act out of anger.
Sticking to a highly structured schedule can also help give your autistic child the consistency they require. Make sure they have regular mealtimes at home, and consistent move-out times for when they have to go to therapy, the early intervention centre, or just going out of the house in general. Keep disruptions to a minimum, and always prepare your child in advance for any unavoidable schedule changes that occur.
Also consider implementing the use of a visual schedule board at home. For children with autism, having a visual schedule can help them better deal with slight inconsistency as long as the schedule remains updated and clear. The use of visual schedules can also support children with autism to become more independent of adult prompts and cues when parents aren’t at home.
2. Reward Good Behaviour and Provide Safe Spaces
Positive reinforcement goes a long way in raising children with autism. Be sure to make a conscientious effort to look out for good behaviour, and always praise and reward your child whenever they act appropriately in situations where autism in children usually wouldn’t allow for, or when they pick up a new skill that can help them with their development. Simple rewards such as stickers or more playtime will do but it is imperative that the reward be something that is of value to your child. Be very concise and specific about what you are praising or rewarding your child for.
While looking out for good bahaviours, it is also important that you do not put your child under strict surveillance and scrutiny at all times. Alone time is important for all of us and is equally, if not more, important for children with autism. While giving your child space, it is important to note that autism in children can also present as meltdowns that may lead to self-harm when unsupervised. To not compromise on your child’s safety while still giving them the space they need, parents should carve out a private and safe space in their home where their child can relax and exhibit regulatory behaviours while being safe and feeling secure.
To do this, safety proof a dedicated space of your house to eliminate the possibility injuries from some behaviours, and provide helpful visual cues — such as coloured tape — to demarcate items or areas that are off-limits within that space. Fill the space up with their favourite toys and furniture, and schedule in some free alone-playtime when your child can simply be themselves while still being safe from harm.
3. Find Non-Verbal Means of Connecting
Verbal communication can be frustrating for children with autism. Parents looking to support their autistic child at home must thus find non-verbal means of connecting with their children such that they don’t overstress their child when merely seeking to bond.
Look out for nonverbal cues that your child with autism uses to communicate whenever they want something or are experiencing some sort of discomfort, such as hunger or tiredness. Some common cues include:
Grumbling, growling and other nonverbal sounds
Slight or explicit change in facial expressions
Hand gestures and other body language
By better understanding your autistic child’s non-verbal communication style, you can better communicate with them through either verbal or non-verbal responses, depending on the situation and your child’s sensory sensitivity. Many children with autism are hypersensitive to sensory stimuli, while some are less sensitive than children without autism. Make sure to better acquaint yourself with what sensory stimuli elicits a positive response and what triggers a bad one.
Also, even though autism can be difficult to ignore, life for children with autism should be more than just therapy and overcoming developmental challenges. Schedule playtime with your autistic child wherever possible, preferably when they are most alert and awake. Figure out how you can have fun together, and what makes them smile, laugh, and come out of their shell.
Leverage Help and Support
Caring for children with autism can demand a lot of time and energy. Don’t try to do everything on your own.
MindChamps Allied Care offers numerous child therapy programmes, along with child psychology services, group classes, and early intervention programmes that can help children with autism thrive and prosper in Singapore.
Book an appointment with us and empower your child to overcome any developmental gaps they may encounter through our evidence-based practices for improved therapy outcomes in Singapore. Find a MindChamps Allied Care Centre near you today.