Parenting Autism Spectrum Children
Your child has just gotten home from school. You’re frazzled from a long day at the office or the parent-teacher association meeting you just finished. There’s a lot on your mind: your kids’ activities, all the house work that needs to be done. Your child drops his/her backpack on the floor and turns on the TV or the video games. You mention homework. All mayhem breaks out. The dust settles, and you’re left wondering if parenting is worth it, why you’re such a bad parent, and why your child is screaming at the top of his/her lungs.
This is a fairly common situation in thousands of households across America. Over time, however, a stressed out child and stressed out parents create ever higher levels of stress, until you’re both wondering what’s wrong!
I’ve been reading a book called Treating Explosive Kids, by Drs. Ross W. Greene and J. Stuart Ablon. I’d like to share some of mine and their concepts that will lay the groundwork for de-stressing the parenting process.
Take Time Out
Take time out as parents. Your children need you to connect with each other. Over time, stress can have the effect of causing us to do more of the same in hopes that it will solve the problem. But I’ve met too many stressed out parents who have not been on a date in ages! You need to have fun! You need to take time out to re-fuel your tanks and to connect with each other!
If you want some practical ideas on how to implement time out for yourselves, I recommend that you read my article, Time Out For Parents of An Aspergers Child.
Make Down Time With Your Child A Priority
Sometimes a stressed out, angry child can seem like a porcupine. Don’t let that faze you. Take the time to connect with your child in a fun, non-stress setting. Take interest in his/her interests: whether it’s Pokemon, their specialized interests, or something that you both enjoy doing together. By building these regular times into your relationship, you will be greasing the wheels of your relationship, so that when the stressful times come, you will have a reservoir of good times to draw on.
Recognize Your Child’s Strengths
When we are going through stressful tugs of war with our children, we can forget about all their positive characteristics. We may think of them as a “problem child.” Just the opposite is the case! This is a child with a unique way of thinking and feeling. But just because s/he does not fit into our expectations of who a child “should” be, does not make her/him a problem child.
You may want to read about the strengths of children on the autism spectrum. Look for your child’s unique strengths, points of view, sense of humor, personality. Celebrate those qualities often, so that you will have a balanced view of your child.
Gain A Better Understanding of Your Child’s Challenges
Understand Your Child’s Triggers
Your child’s triggers could be related to many things: sensory hypersensitivity; difficulty with transitions; difficulty being able to express himself/herself; difficulty being able to express him/herself. There could also be sleep problems, food allergy problems, medical problems, or even internal family problems (stress in the marriage, for example). Understanding your child’s triggers will help you, as a parent, be proactive in intervening prior to those situations coming up. Or this understanding may help you seek out the additional treatment your child may need to address those triggers.
I highly recommend that you read another article on this blog, 10 Things Your Child With Autism Wants You To Know.
I also recommend that you read a previous article I wrote, Little Known Ways To Understand Explosive Children. In that article, I covered five areas that children on the autism spectrum may struggle with. This just means that, along with their many personal strengths, they may have areas they need to grow in: this could include: executive skills; language-processing skills; emotion regulation skills; cognitive flexibility skills; and social skills.
I encourage your to read the article in order to get a better understanding of those areas of cognitive skills.
Consider Neuropsychological Testing
Neuropsychological testing can prove extremely helpful to identify the specific challenges your child may be facing. I encourage you to look into getting this completed, if you have not done so already. You will want to first call the number on the back of your healthcare insurance card for mental health services. The representatives will be able to refer you to psychologists in your insurance network who provide these types of services.
Once you get a comprehensive report, you’ll have a very clear idea of what, specifically, your child is dealing with. You will also get counseling, school, and parenting recommendations and resources in any well written neuropsychological report.
Consider Coaching and/or Mentoring
You may want to enlist the help of professionals who are qualified to help you with whatever struggles you are facing. In addition, it may be very helpful for you to connect with support groups in your area or on the internet so that you do not feel alone. Finally, I highly recommend Brian King @ Spectrum Mentor. He is a licensed clinical therapist, he has Aspergers, and he has children on the autism spectrum. He can provide you with a lot of needed help.
This article provides the “Why” of your child’s meltdowns and outbursts. In upcoming articles, I will explore parenting solutions and strategies from Dr. Greene’s book. You may also enjoy reading his popular book for parents, The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children.
I’d love to hear your challenges and triumphs in parenting. Also, feel free to share any resources you’ve benefited from.
photo credit: clairity
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