Stress is a part of life even for everyone, not just children on the spectrum, but a child who has autism or other behavioral need some additional help learning to cope with difficult situations that can cause them stress.
Here are some ways that you can help your child on the spectrum cope with stress:
1. Create a Safe Word or Place – Communicate with your child with autism on the importance of them letting you know when there is a situation they are in that is uncomfortable to them. Take the time to help them come up with a safe word (code word) that they can say to you when they find themselves feeling stressed about a given situation. If they are experiencing stress at home or at school talk to them about finding their “safe place” – their bedroom, the classroom, etc. That way when they feel like things are becoming overwhelming for them, they can go to their “safe place” and unwind before rejoining a group activity, a family party, etc. It is also good to practice taking a break in places where there is no quiet area and to practice stepping away from a stressful situation, counting to ten, or visualizing a calming environment.
2. Role Play – it is important to be open with your child on the spectrum about things that can occur in school and the community that can cause them stress, such as not getting their way, being made fun of or called names, hearing the word “NO” from a peer, family member or teacher etc. It is ideal to prepare your child with autism for situations like this. One good way to do this is to cerate a set of situation cards (think of the game clue) have 3 sets of cards that allow you to pick a location (school, grocery store, park etc.) a situation (not being picked for a team, not getting a toy you want, not being able to play with a friend etc.) and some phrases that your child might hear in a situation like this (you’re to slow, we don’t want you on our team, you can’t have that candy bar, it’s not your turn, etc.) pick a card from each category and role play the situation, all the while talking to your child about appropriate responses and behaviors and throwing in other situations that can arise in that particular situation. You can turn this into a family game and each person in your family can take a turn picking cards for everyone to act out. This will allow you to show your child with autism how to overcome obstacles and make good choices even in stressful situations. ,.
3. Find A Way To Help Reduce Their Stress Reducer – Giving your child a stress ball to squeeze or directing them to jump on a trampoline, taking a deep breath and counting to 10, are just some examples of how your child with autism can exert their energy in a positive way when under stress. Teach your child on the spectrum to resort to using their items rather than reacting physically when they find themselves getting stress out or upset to help calm themselves down and regroup.
No parent wants to see her child with autism suffer from low self-esteem, but unfortunately this can be a reality for many parents who have children on the spectrum.
Here are some ways you can help your child with autism boost their self-esteem and keep their confidence high.
If you have a child who is on the spectrum and is struggling with their self confidence it is important to ask them why they are feeling down. Some may be able to tell you, but if you’re child can’t communicate this with you, keep a close eye on their behavior, and talk to their teachers, their therapists, or anyone who works closely with your child to find out what could have caused a shift in their self-esteem. Once you know the root of the problem, you will be able to help your child on the spectrum find effective ways to cope with their lack of self-esteem and offer effective solution.
We tend to be our own worst critics, and that’s especially true of children. But when they can’t meet the impossible standards that society sets for them (no matter what age they are), it affects the way they view themselves and can cause a decrease in their self-confidence. By offering an optimistic view on the situation, you can quickly turn their frown upside down and get them thinking positively about the situation, and, in turn feeling better about themselves and their abilities
The best place to start working with your child on their self-esteem is at home. Home is supposed to be the safest place for a child, so by creating a safe space for them to talk openly, cry, and express their fears, feelings and doubts, you can get past the negative and start working with them on the positive things that are around them and the good they bring to every situation. It’s important to get past the doubts and fears and focus on your child’s strengths.
The best way to focus on the positive is to compliment your child on the spectrum when they do something right, when they try extra hard, when they say or do or act a way that make you proud of them. It’s also great to share these moments with family and friends so that your child with autism hears praises from their entire support system on their improvements. By humbly bragging about your child, you prove that you aren’t just saying these things to make them feel better, but that others see their accomplishments as well and believe in their strengths and abilities. When you, your family and friends, your child’s teachers etc. show they are proud of your child with autism, it will make them feel better about themselves and will give them the confidence they need to boost their self-esteem.
It is important for your child with autism to learn to read facial expressions because a lot of social interactions focus around a combination of words, body language and facial expressions. When your child on the spectrum is able to identify how a friend, classmate, sibling, parent, or person in the community feels, they are able to respond appropriately.
Here are some ways to help your child learn how to read and make proper facial expressions.
1. Practice in a Mirror – Show your child fun facial expressions in a mirror and get them to try to mimic you. It is also fun to turn this into a game, you can either show the expression and they get a point for matching what you did, or pick a category like – silly faces and the winner is the person who makes the best silly face etc. When your child on the spectrum makes a facial expression, you can point out how their eyes, eyebrows, nose, and mouth change shapes as they practice different expressions. You can also involve you child with autism in the decision making process when you are making facial expressions. Ask them questions like “If I am making a happy face should my eyes be large and round or should I squint?”
2. Role Play – Role play is a fun way for you to teach your child on the spectrum how to practice identifying feelings through proper facial expressions. Role play can be a group activity or a one on one game. Take turns acting out the feeling and pay special attention to your child’s expressions, so that you can ask questions about their “feelings” based on how they express them. paying special attention to facial expressions.
3. Use Natural Opportunities – When you are with your child with autism at school, at the park, at a friend or family member’s house or in the community, take time to talk to your child about what is happening around them and the expressions that they see. Maybe create a game called guess their feelings to teach your child how to read other people’s facial expressions properly. Another natural opportunity is when you and your child on the spectrum watch TV or videos together. It’s always good to use the expressions on the screen as a test. Simply pause what you are watching and discuss the character-s feelings and facial expressions.
When children struggle to understand other people’s feelings and manage their own emotions, it impacts friendships, adult interactions, and their behavior throughout the day. By teaching them to read and make proper facial expressions you are grooming them to be expressive, understanding and aware of other people’s feelings.