How To Make Your Autistic Child Adjusting and Your Family Happy
I received an interesting question recently.
How can we go on a short family trip and keep our autistic child happy all the while? Our son has been the centre of focus all this while, after ignoring the elder brother which definitely makes us helpless and guilty. How do we get him to enjoy and adjust to the new places?
When we think about autism, we think about the child affected by autism.
In reality, autism affects the entire family.
The health and wellbeing of all family members needs to be taken into account.
This situation is very close to my heart.
When Mohit was diagnosed with autism, my daughter Tanya was 5 months.
She got my undivided attention only for those 5 months.
After that life did a total flip and the focus shifted to autism, Mohit, his therapies etc.
I did not give Tanya the kind of attention she needed. Actually I was so overwhelmed with Mohit and the autism that I wasn’t fully present for her.
This is the biggest regret I have. Lost time doesn’t return.
Today she’s a beautiful young woman, away at University.
Please do not make the same mistake I did.
Give your other child your time and attention too.
The repercussions may not show up immediately, but they show up later in life.
Spend quality time with your other child. Make the effort to take your child out alone so he gets your undivided attention. Talk to him about his life, school and friends. Visit a favorite restaurant or play his favorite sport with him.
The child with autism should not become the focal point of your life.
You- the parents are the center and both/all your children are a part of your family.
Take care of your own mental health. Spend time doing what you like. ‘Me time’ is incredibly important.
Do you like to read? Or play a sport? Or watch movies? Do what makes you feel good.
I met a beautiful young mother recently. She seemed overwhelmed and depressed. What saddened me most was she had lost herself.
She talked only about her son and his issues, her concerns about him.
I surprised her by asking, “Who is the real Rita? What does Rita enjoy?”
She pondered and replied after a minute. “I like to dance and paint.”
“Then that is what I want you to do for atleast 30 minutes everyday.
If you’re not in a good place, how can you help your child?” I responded.
Spend time with your spouse or partner. ‘Us time’ is extremely important.
I often ask families, ‘when was the last time you both went out together?’
If I get the puzzled look, I know they haven’t been out alone in a while.
Ask a friend, relative, baby sitter to be with your children.
Go on a date with your spouse or partner once a week. Catch up for coffee or a meal.
It will keep you connected and your marriage strong.
The 2nd part of the question is about keeping your autistic child happy and adjusting with new places.
The answer does not lie in merely desensitizing him to adapt to new places. It’s more about building up flexibility in your child so he can adapt to every situation in life.
The answer to this is simple. In fact, its simplicity will blow you away.
Follow these 3 steps.
Choose 3 regular household activities.
Simple activities you do at home regularly.
Here’s my list-
Putting toys away
Putting crockery and cutlery away
Putting clothes away
You could choose what suits your own family life.
Ready with your list?
Add ‘just noticeable differences’
Give yourself a role too. All these activities involve co participation.
It’s not about your child doing this alone. Both of you will participate.
For example with the first activity- demonstrate to your child to put toys away in a basket.
After you do this a couple of times, hand him a toy.
Create just noticeable differences by handing him the toy differently each time. Hand it from high above, then hand it from the side. Then leave it on the floor.
Does he put in the basket despite these little changes?
If he does, that’s great.
If not, be there to help and support.
You can add ‘just noticeable differences’ to each activity you’ve selected.
Add a challenge
Once you’ve added just noticeable differences and your child is able to adapt, add a challenge.
A challenge is something that makes your child think about possibilities.
In the toy activity, once your child is able to handle the ‘just noticeable differences,’ place the basket at a height, beyond reach. Will your child be able to reach up high to put the toy in the basket?
For the plates, bowls and spoons activity, what would he do if you gave him a serving spoon or ladle instead?
For the clothes in the cupboard activity, what would he do if you gave him his dad’s t-shirt instead of his own?
There could be many possibilities of responses. There is no ‘one right’ answer.
Give your child time to problem solve. Give him 45 seconds before helping him.
When you let your child grapple with problems by creating uncertainty, the brain is forced to think. New neural networks are created.
Work on these and similar activities for a month. Make sure you follow all 3 steps.
Slow down, be calm and connect emotionally with your child while working on these activities.
Your child will become more aware of life around him.
You will see his understanding skyrocket.
And he will become more flexible and adaptable too.
Life will become happier for you and him.
Isn’t that what you’ve always wanted?
What are you waiting for, dear parent.
Follow these 3 steps- take the bull by its horns.
You can be empowered and create the change you want to see in your child.
Do this for 1 month and see the results manifesting in your life.
I’d love to hear your success stories.
And if you’d like a customized plan for your child, feel free to drop an email at firstname.lastname@example.org