Make Life Easier.
Shannon Des Roches Rosa wrote an article for the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism, titled "Eleven Ways You Can Make Your Autistic Child's Life Easier" to encourage parents to think intuitively about their children and their behavior in order to make the child's life easier, as well as the lives of everyone else around them. She explains that loving your autistic child is a wonderful and precious experience, however just loving them with all of your being is not going to help you, or anyone else, fully understand how being autistic affects your child's body, their senses, and how they interact with the world. She lays out these 11 factors about being autistic in order to provide some insight and make room for better understanding of what it is really like to be neurologically different. The first of these is processing times, which is the rhythm and speed at which they process information. Practicing patience in certain circumstances may look like giving the child a moment to respond rather than impatiently assuming they didn't understand what was said. Disregarding these processing needs can lead to the autistic person feeling that their abilities or comprehension are being grossly underestimated. The second thing to note is visual and auditory processing. Autistic people tend to process visual and audio input faster, or with greater intensity, which can sometimes mean "super hearing" as in being able to detect or pick up on whisperings in the room or around the corner. Sometimes, children will have difficulty screening out loud noises or lights and will melt down or react quite extremely. It is the parent, caregiver, or teacher's task then to provide items to block out those distractions, like noise-cancelling headphones, glasses with colored lenses, or non-fluorescent lights in the home and/or classroom. Autistic children can also be sensitive to change in barometric pressure meaning that they may get migraines or severe headaches when the weather begins to change. If your child seems agitated when the weather changes, it may be due to pain and not fear of the storm. Some autistic children may experience trouble sleeping, which can be aggravating for both the child and the parent, however, this may be due to their increased likelihood for heartburn or other uncomfortable medical conditions. Heartburn hurts and it can be made worse by laying down, so address the pain and assess the situation before brushing the sleep regression off as just annoying. Stimming is an activity that is often used by autistic children when they need to entertain themselves, regulate themselves, or cope with being overwhelmed; it serves a legitimate purpose. This behavior can be irritating when people don't understand the benefit of the child flicking a straw, flapping their hands, chewing on a silicone straw, or any other tricks for re-centering. A form of verbal stimming is Echolalia, which is the repetition of words, phrases, or scripts that can be a way of self-soothing, yet parents and teachers will try to stop a child from doing this; don't. Another thing that is necessary in the life of an autistic child is "chill time." The world can be overwhelming and it should be encouraged that a child has ample time to decompress and process. Autistic children tend to be over-scheduled and over-stimulated, but just like any other human, they are not going to be at their best when their energy is drained; they need time to regroup. In some scenarios, autistic children can also experience some facial blindness, or agnosia, which is difficulty differentiating shapes, smells, buildings, and individual people or pets. The best thing to do in these situations is to try and help the child remember people and things by other traits and be aware that going out to see friends may stress them out, but you can help them find a strategy to remembering as best as possible. Another important thing to note is that autistic children can be pretty sensitive to another person's tone of voice. They can feel others' emotions, absorb them and magnify them, so it is important to keep the tone of speaking as neutral and calm as possible to avoid that communication being perceived as angry or hurtful. Another important thing to do as a parent is to simplify the child's space. You can help and encourage them to organize and maintain their space in whatever way is going to benefit them and make them feel more at ease. Lastly, give both you and your child time for respite, you will both need it and can both benefit. Let them take a break however and whenever they feel that it is necessary. The final takeaway from this article is that every person is unique, including every autistic person, and what is characteristic of one person may not be true for someone else. Take the time to learn all you can about your children and adapt to their behaviors and needs as best you can so that you, your child, and the rest of your family can have the best lives possible.