Last week, we touched on two major implications of the current prevalence of autism being 1 in 68. First, we need an abundance of well-trained, highly-qualified service providers to teach individuals on the spectrum and to train and support family members and other caregivers. Second, we need to educate ourselves on the developmental milestones and adhere to the recommended well-child doctor visit schedule to ensure early, routine evaluation of the development of our children.
What else? What can families and caregivers do to support their child with autism? Check out the suggestions below:
- Learn strategies for increasing language and communication skills. There are a number of free resources available online to support families and service providers in learning about effective, research-based strategies for increasing language and communication skills. Subscribe to an education related blog written by a behavior analyst or speech-language pathologist to access information on how to support the development of your child’s language and communication skills. Consult with a speech-language pathologist or a behavior analyst on strategies that best suit your family and your child’s language and communication needs.
- Learn about how behaviors are learned. Empower your family by learning the science of behavior (i.e., behavior analysis) so that you can take control of reducing your child’s problem behavior and teaching appropriate behaviors. Attend local workshops such as the free upcoming applied behavior analysis (ABA) workshops hosted by Bluebonnet Trails in Round Rock, Texas Saturday, April 26th and Wednesday, April 30th. The only cost is your time and in that time you will gain invaluable knowledge and skills.
- Utilize respite services, support groups, and personal counseling or support services. These services will support you in staying connecting with the community, meeting other parents, and accessing supports to help you take care of yourself amidst your journey of caring for your child.
- Schedule play dates. Make time for your child to interact with same-age peers. Facilitate interaction when your child and the peer/s need support. We have to teach children the skills needed to interact appropriately with others before we can expect them to do it well independently. Support your child in acclimating to interacting with peers. Support your child in learning how to interact with peers. Give your child the opportunity to be independent and to show you that they can interact appropriately with the skills you’ve taught them.
- Communicate frequently and clearly with all individuals who routinely interact with your child. Consistency across individuals and settings is imperative to your child’s success and rate of progress. Some things to communicate about include the words your child uses to request the things he/she wants, how to respond to your child’s communication, how to predict a meltdown or instance of problem behavior, what to do to prevent problem behavior, how to respond when problem behavior occurs, how to prepare your child for transitions, how to create opportunities for your child to use language, how to support your child when he/she struggles to perform a skill, and any other topic that is important to your child’s development and the skills being addressed at home, at school, or in therapy. Be sure to model how to implement each of the above strategies as it is easy for a message to be lost or misunderstood when we rely solely on words.
- Create a biography for your child to give to all service providers, friends, and family. The biography can include information outlined in suggestion 5 as well as what your child loves, what your child dislikes, how to play with your child, and how to talk with your child. A biography could be a valuable tool for supporting service providers, friends, and family in knowing how to best work with your child.
- Learn your rights and the rights of your child. Wrightslaw and Texas Project FIRST are phenomenal resources for learning about special education law, the admission, review, and dismissal (ARD) process, how to interpret your child’s individualized education program (IEP), and much more. Learning about your rights and the rights of your child will help you to advocate for your child throughout and beyond their school years.
- Share in your child’s joy and cherish the moment. You child will accomplish great things each day. Some things may be tiny steps forward and some will be more spectacular. It can be hard to identify those tiny successes, but they are worth looking for and cherishing. Before you know it, your child will be a tall teenager with new skills and new challenges to face. Share in that journey with them.
What would you share with a parent receiving an autism diagnosis for their child? What advice and support was most valuable for your family? What advice and support do you wish was provided to you when you received an autism diagnosis for your child? Pay it forward and pass on the knowledge to new families in need of guidance. Tell us what you think in the comment box below.