With the state of the world as it is right now, it can be hard for even the most well-adjusted child to cope with isolation and social distancing. For a child with autism, it can be out right devastating. Here are some ways to recognize signs of stress that can come from a disaster or traumatic event.
If your child is young or non-verbal they may not have the ability to express themselves in a way that you will understand clearly. If your child is acting insecure or is suddenly very stressed out and irritated, these can be signs of something gone wrong. Here are some questions you should ask yourself.
- Is your young child acting irritated?
- Have you noticed your child cry excessively for reasons unknown to you?
- Has your child been acting out?
- Does your child have sleeping?
- Does he or she lack emotions?
- Have you noticed any regressive behavior?
If your child on the spectrum is slightly older and more verbal they may have a better understanding of what is going on around them and how to handle themselves in a crisis situation.
Although they may seem to be coping, they can still experience post traumatic stress. Parents should ask themselves the following questions about their older child’s behavior:
- Is your older child suddenly pre-occupied with an event, traumatic experience or disaster?
- Has your older started to withdrawal from activities with friends or family ?
- Has your son or daughter started to experience trouble sleeping?
- Have they have trouble concentrating?
If you can answer “Yes” to any of the questions above then here are some tips to help your child get a better handle of their stress levels:
- Calmly, but clearly explain to your child that although this situation is scary, it’s also only temporary. Try to make them feel comfortable by finding a happy balance between their old routine and this “new normal”.
- Show compassion. Give your child with autism extra hugs and more attention… anything they like that will give them a sense of love, safety and comfort.
- Let them know you are there for them. Be there shoulder to cry on, be available to talk to them and comfort them.
- Initiate conversation about your situation if they don’t come to you first, and listen to what they have to say.
- Take their fears, concerns, gestures and expressions seriously and let them know it is OK for them to have these feelings and concerns.
- Be mindful of your reactions to their fears. Stay calm and be sure not to say anything that would cause more stress.
- Limit their exposure to the media on the subject of COVID-19.
- If your child is older and has access to social media, the news or radio then do what you can to talk to them about what is happening, how it is effecting others, and how they can keep themselves safe.
If you feel you have tried everything and it’s still not working, it is always a good idea to seek some professional help from a doctor, councilor or specialist.
With kids spending so much time at home, motivation for school work, chores etc. tends to dwindle away over time. Finding activities that motivate your child can be a struggle. Many parents and professionals search for ways to help their child complete difficult tasks or improve behaviors.
Below you will find some resourceful ideas you can use to inspire your child when motivation is low and emotions run high. Since all children on the spectrum are unique, please take these ideas as guidelines and feel free to adjust any of the concepts to fit your child’s interests.
- Interests: Pay close attention to your child’s interests during this time. Are they interested in video games, animals, trains, cars, or specific television shows? Topics and activities that interest them should be incorporated throughout their day to keep them motivated to complete tasks that are either difficult or do not interest them.
- Rewards: Is your child working on a large goal such as potty training, brushing teeth, dressing, etc. create a reward system and turn the activity into a game. With a simple activities chart you Can keep your child motivated while trying to meet their milestones. A good example of this would be, every time your child goes on the potty, or follows the step-by-step instructions to brushing their teeth, you give them a sticker on their chart. At the end of the week if they have 5 or more stickers then they get a prize. Working towards a reward can be very exciting for children on the spectrum.
- Helping Roles: By giving your child a helping role it allows them to feel more engaged and more grown up. It also teaches them that helping can be fun. When children on the spectrum are engaged, they stay focused and occupied. An example of this is, if you have a child that runs from you, tell them that if they hold your hand all the way home they can (a.) help make their favorite dinner or (b) bake their favorite dessert.
- If/Then: Other ways we have found to keep children motivated are through the if/then scenario. For example: If you finish your homework, then you can play outside; or when you finish cleaning your room, you can watch TV. This method has also proven very effective. When you allow your child to participate in an activity they love you have a better chance of keeping them motivated enough to complete a task they don’t.
There are many ways to motive children on the spectrum, and it all starts with incorporating their interests throughout each day to keep motivation and participation high. Keep things positive and always choose a reward system over consequences of actions. When you create a positive environment, you help your children grow and learn instead of causing frustration or pushing them away. Get creative with your ideas and think outside the box. The more creative and fun you make the process, the more motived your child on will be.
There are a variety of ways to increase communication, depending on your child’s age and verbal ability. Two of the best ways in increase language skills is to be a role model and to create situations that promote language.
Children learn from the adults around them. When you speak to your child on the spectrum, use full and complete sentences, correct grammar and make sure to articulate your words. If you think your child doesn’t understand a word you are using, repeat it and explain its meaning to them.
Creating situations to promote language is also a great way to increase communications with your child. Use their favorite toys, clothes, and food to motivate them to speak. Make sure they can see these items but can’t reach them so that they have to ask for them. Asking them questions about the items they want is also a great way to work with them to improve their language skills.
Giving your child on the spectrum choices in activities, books, toys etc. will allow them to communicate their preferences and will also create an opportunity to increase the use of language, even if you already know what they will pick.
Reading to your child is also an excellent way to incorporate language. Ask them questions about the story and the pictures in the book. Have them predict what is going to happen. After your finish the story, review it with them, ask them what they liked about the story and what they didn’t like. When your child answers your questions make sure they are speaking in complete sentences. If they are only using two to three words to describe something, increase their sentence length by repeating their answer with an expanded phrase.
It is very important to be supportive of your child who has been diagnosed with autism. Children are more likely to communicate if they feel valued. Make sure to listen attentively when they speak to you and ask questions in order to continue the conversation. Lastly, make sure you find time to communicate with your child. Putting your phones away, turning off the TV or computers and dedicating time to just talk is the best way to encourage communication at home.
Make your child feel as if their day and their experiences matter. Use the time you are at the dinner table or in the car to learn about what they did, what they learned, and what they want. It’s the perfect way to increase communication and language skills.