What is applied behavior analysis and why is it more preferred than other therapeutic methods for autism?
In retrospect, autism therapy is not just composed of one specific type of treatment but is usually a collection of procedures which targets specific autistic behaviors. On the other hand, applied behavior analysis (ABA) is considered as a preferred therapeutic modality mostly because it is frequently used and offered by most therapists, and was indemnified by school programs and initial interventions.
It is, however, important to note that ABA was created decades ago and is just one of the numerous types of behavior therapies that are offered to children who are on the autistic spectrum. Currently, applied behavior analysis is considered as the therapy where all other treatments were derived from, and is commonly known in the therapeutic field. (more…)
Parenting a child who is autistic may be one of the most fulfilling yet daunting things that some parents will ever go through. I know because I have been a therapist to one too many kids on the spectrum – and me being a parent of a 10-year-old daughter who is on the spectrum as well.
Many of the people I have helped and guided throughout my practice frequently asked me how I could do it as if I possess some magic weapon or special talent that they do not have. I, too, had my own path in therapy – as an individual in therapy – that enabled me the most and helped me learn the skills, I was required to have to go through this challenge. That personal journey was also the reason why I chose to be the therapist that I am today.
As parents to ASD children, we become proficient at investigating, seeking, and paying all the appropriate therapies for our kids, although we are also inclined to set aside our very own needs. To survive and thrive on this parenting path that we are now navigating, finding professional assistance may be beneficial at one point or another.
Below are some important ways that therapy can benefit parents with children who are on the spectrum.
Parenting Abilities. Parenting an ASD child can be very distinctive from parenting a typical child. Often, there are sensory problems to consider, medical interventions, therapies, safety issues to decide on, and educational choices to make, to name a few. Almost always, these kids also come with mental health conditions and self-management complications. Parents may become confused and tremendously overwhelmed when confronted with everything.
A therapist who is trained and experienced in providing the essentials of ASD families is crucial. This mental health professional can definitely assist parents in learning how to prioritize their needs and lessen the stress and anxiety related to overwhelm. When I talk to couples with ASD kids, I often remind them that an autism diagnosis does not destroy a relationship but rather their reaction to it could.
Keeping It Strong With Your Partner. Reports have been released that kids with autism have relatively higher marital conflict and divorce rates than typical kids. That definitely comes to no surprise, as problems and stressors are commonly far worse.
Autism spectrum disorder tends to place a vivid light on whatever matters were already existing. A therapist who is aware of the continuous stress that ASD places on the whole family can assist partners in navigating the challenges and other issues while keeping the bond with your partner strong.
Keep in mind, though, that this is not something that happens overnight. It’s a process that takes patience, time, and perseverance. However, the outcomes are worth the wait. I am certain that therapy saved more than half of my marriage.
Adapting To The Diagnosis. The ASD diagnosis itself is frequently devastating for us parents. It can become a demanding process that could take a year or even more, with several consultations with various professionals. Parents are usually confronted with multiple emotions in the entire process, including guilt, fear, extreme worry, and anxiety – and too much time waiting. Numerous parents are told that their kid is not actually on the spectrum, and then you hit the dead end with more queries and answers.
No matter what the result is, truly, the pain and grief are very real. Oftentimes, knowledge of the stages of grief and the acceptance that grief is recurring somehow help parents adapt. Each individual responds differently to grief, and the way one responds has something to do tremendously with what really occurred and whether or not they have handled it efficiently. An individual might require therapeutic management such as EMDR therapy or cognitive restructuring to overcome the pain and overwhelm of the unraveled diagnosis.
Stress Control. Stress plays a suggestive role in the emergence of disease. It literally causes sickness. For us to be healthy, we have to learn ways of controlling or regulating stress effectively. The everyday stress of an ASD parent is tremendous and persistent. A therapist can help by providing a supportive hand and ear, teaching self-care skills, and substantiating parenting efforts. Therapy aims to help a person go through a tough time or be utilized regularly during the parents’ journey. I have been helping several parents place my phone number on speed dial, and others have been in therapy routinely for years while their ASD child is growing up.
Most people agree that we won’t be able to hand an empty glass, that we must don our own oxygen masks to help other people. If you are like me – a parent of an ASD child, therapy can make a big difference in the way you handle this longstanding situation that you’ve been handed. Ultimately, it is a win-win for the whole family.
If you have the choice of letting your autistic child stay at home just until they are mature enough to attend kindergarten, are you going to do it? Your answer will be dependent upon some vital factors, which include:
Your community’s provisions and open-mindedness to an autistic child
Your child’s preferences, needs, and challenges
The accessibility of school (or out-of-school) therapists at a rate that you can afford
The availability of a proper preschool program
Your personal capacity and commitment to work hand in hand with your autistic child on learning and developing social interaction skills.
Home School Advantages And Disadvantages
Advantages: Homeschooling can be suitable for preschoolers with the spectrum. It offers a secure and convenient setting that is customized to your child’s requirements, and it can be an appropriate place for tough therapy that is frequently suggested. Sensory input is controllable, and outlooks remain stable throughout the day. Numerous therapists believe that because home is a familiar setting, it is favorable for learning and that parents make the best teachers and therapists.
Play therapies like floor time and Relationship Development Intervention are commonly provided in a natural setting by parents. Specialized schools and facilities might not even have these types of platforms. If you are offering developmental therapy, then the home setting might be the most appropriate choice.
Disadvantages: Conversely, the option of home care and schooling implies that a person, most probably a parent, must be capable and willing to stay with the autistic toddler at home. So the stay-at-home parent is expected to be incapable of having a regular job, as he will not have the energy and the time to work outside of the house when he has spent most of his time caring for the autistic preschooler. In addition, most kids on the spectrum do well in a very predictable and repetitive setup. If you have other kids or an online job, homeschooling may become chaotic, loud, and erratic.
Perhaps the role of a parent as a home teacher or therapist to a child on the spectrum might not be for everybody. The role typically involves being a therapist during the day, dealing with your child’s behaviors and moods outside the home while going to the parks or when shopping, and being a case manager for the numerous medical professionals and therapists that you might now include in your life. Unfortunately, some parents can efficiently handle this type of challenge, but others find it tough, draining, and depressing.
Preschool Advantages And Disadvantages
Advantages: In numerous communities, full or partial-day preschool is accessible and often free to all families. Kids with ASD get academic guidelines as well as some in-school therapy. Many aspects also offer at least some private preschool platforms geared towards kids with special needs. A private preschool might be a good match, depending on your kid’s offerings and needs as well.
Preschools or kindergarten schools also provide a very important benefit to a group of friends and their parents, and that is quite hard to establish from scratch going up if you have a child on the spectrum.
Disadvantages: A preferable preschool setting can be wonderful, but it is also a fact that numerous preschools are far from idyllic. You might notice that your autistic child is getting very little in terms of experience or perhaps having an unpleasant experience. You may realize that the known ‘trained’ personnel are essentially teacher’s assistants who previously attended lectures on Autism Spectrum Disorder. You may also discover that other kids in your child’s circle are less disabled than your child, which makes learning and socializing difficult.
If your autistic child is at a normal preschool, despite early interventions, you might notice that normally developing kids might be less keen to reach out to your child during their school and out-of-school activities and other social events.
Regardless of your option (home school or preschool), it is vital to remember that you have the option to change your decision. In fact, you can even choose to try both. There is no definite right or wrong. The decision you make will relate most especially to your family, your place, and definitely, your child. As you take into account your decision, consider these questions:
What does the possible parent think about performing the function of a stay-at-home teacher of an autistic child? Would they probably feel fatigued, overwhelmed, or resentful? Or, otherwise, will they feel eager, energized, or encouraged?
Can you afford to have one parent stay home and not have a regular job?
What do the rest of your kids need? Will managing an autistic preschooler at home take too much of your time and energy that you won’t be able to care for your other kids?
If your autistic child is comparatively engaged or social or fits suitably in a prevailing preschool program, it might be better to give it a try. On the other hand, if your child seems to require a lot of personalized therapy, homeschooling would be a more beneficial choice.
Is your child recently diagnosed with autism? Or perhaps, are you going through changes or milestones in your child’s life, making acceptance of their condition difficult? You may now be sending them to school, and suddenly, coping with their autism seems much harder than it was. It may be your first time having a person with autism in the family, making you feel uncertain and confused.
In any situation, acceptance is a process. From denial, we may all go through anger, bargaining, and depression before finally reaching acceptance. Also, acceptance is not a linear and one-time process, especially for a lifetime challenge such as living with autism. There will always be instances of denial, bargaining, depression, and anger throughout this journey. It is okay to struggle because this journey is not an easy one.
As a parent, you would want to get all the help you need in raising your child with autism. Just like raising any other child, it always takes a village. Love and acceptance start in a nurturing home so they can one day face the world. How do you begin living life with autism?
Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is an umbrella term of a developmental disability with a wide range of presentations. Unlike other conditions, the signs and symptoms of autism are usually different for every child. There are red flags that may help diagnose ASD early in a child’s life. However, each child with autism is unique with their own set of needs.
According to CDC, data shows one in every 54 children is diagnosed with autism. The increasing data can be alarming, but it may indicate something good. It shows more children are being diagnosed and receiving the intervention they need. Through the years, we learn more about autism and how we can help children with this diagnosis.
Counseling is vital in understanding the impact of your child’s diagnosis. With understanding comes acceptance and learning how we can manage life with autism.
Parenting A Child With Autism
Raising a child with autism also requires basic parenting skills in child-rearing. You must be good at being a parent because you will also do what all other parents do. As parents, we must learn techniques in organizing the home, managing behavioral tantrums, teaching skills, and so much more.
Always allow yourself to have room for improvement and constant growth. You may attend parenting seminars, talks, classes, and counseling so you can get to know more tips and techniques. After learning, practice and application allow you to see what works and what does not work for your child. The key is to grow with your child and adapt to the changes they may need through time.
Individual Counseling – Caring For Yourself To Care For Others
A child with autism may need more attention and energy compared to other children. It is normal to feel stressed and burned out as you care for your child. However, healthy well-being allows us to be better caregivers. Talking to a counselor may help you deal with your struggles so you can help your child and your family. Counseling will facilitate your coping in difficult situations such as moments of distress, anxiety, maladaptation, and mental or emotional struggles.
The Power Of Early Intervention
The sooner you learn and accept the diagnosis of your child, the better. It allows them to get the help they need right away for better outcomes. We can minimize delays, and your child will find it easier to cope once they receive intervention early on.
There are different types of intervention available for children with autism. These are not designed to cure autism. It teaches your child the skills they need to become functional and independent. Among the available treatments, counseling and therapies are:
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)
Occupational Therapy (OT)
Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)
Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT)
Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)
Family Counseling – Getting On The Same Page
It is essential to work together as a family when it comes to raising your child with autism. There should be consistency, so they would not get confused and biased. Family counseling may facilitate communication and understanding at home to create a nurturing environment for your child. We must work together to manage our expectations and manage our roles as parents.
Support groups are also available for parents of children with autism. Counseling in groups provides parents a safe space to share their struggles and also learn from other parents.
Take Note Of Their Strengths And Struggles
Every child faces their own set of accomplishments and challenges every day. These strengths and struggles are more apparent in children with autism. Some of them are exceptionally good at one field or task, while they need more help in others. For example, your child with autism may have an incredible photographic memory or is very gifted in the music and arts. But for the most part, they have difficulty making friends.
As parents, we need to know the individual skills, interests, quirks, and difficulties our children face every day. To find these out, we can observe them in their everyday mundane tasks. But more importantly, we can help them find their cutting-edge skills and nurture them. Doing these will not only boost your child’s self-confidence, but you’ll also help them achieve more in life.
Advocate For Awareness, Acceptance, And Inclusion
As parents, we have strong instincts in protecting our children. Your fear for your child’s present and future is valid. In a world where stigma and discrimination for children with disabilities prevail, we become advocates. It begins with acceptance within us.
Children with autism are exceptional with their own set of strengths and unique abilities. They are just like the rest of us, even if they have their way of seeing and understanding the world. A diagnosis with ASD does not change your child. They are the same precious being you held as they were born. Their diagnosis only allows you to understand them better.
As your child grows, you would want to create the same opportunities for them. Your acceptance of autism can radiate into the world so they can have a bigger, more nurturing space to grow. When we advocate for autism awareness and acceptance, we also fight for their inclusion in society. Then, you can ease your worries as they grow into a world where people with autism are not treated differently.
Autism is a neurobiological disorder that affects a person’s capacity to speak, learn, and interact with the world around him or her. Repetitive behavior and excessive routines such as obsession with a specific object and unnecessary movements are characteristics of people diagnosed with this disorder.
While medications and treatment are also helpful in addressing symptoms of Autism, interactive therapies and play-based approaches are also beneficial. Here are some of the best counseling and therapy types that your doctor may integrate with managing your child with Autism.
An allied medical professional called an Occupational Health Therapist might also help your child be more accustomed and independent in daily routines, personal habits, and other activities. This may include teaching your child how to properly eat, use utensils, wear clothes, and hold crayons and pens. A session may focus on learning how to play or work various recreation activities.
Occupational Therapists may use various methods and activities during therapy. These of which may include interactive strategies that use assistive technologies specialized for your child’s individual needs.
A licensed speech-language pathologist or speech pathologist can help teach children with Autism various communication skills such as word articulation, effective listening, sentence construction, and many others. Sessions in speech therapy are usually dedicated to learning verbal directions, determining social cues and how to respond to them, or participating in self-paced conversations with people.
The setting might be dependent on your child’s present needs. Your Speech Therapist can select if a personal and controlled environment or a group dynamic is the best fit for your child’s preferences. There are also times when your therapist might ask you if you would like assistive communication tools for your child’s progress.
Social Skills Therapy
There are therapy sessions called to practice and develop social skills among children with Autism. It is a safe area where children learn how to work and get along with others while learning about active participation in social situations. Session in social skills therapy offers children with Autism an opportunity to enjoy while learning how to interact with people such as the other kids without Autism.
Speech therapists or autism specialists are usually the ones who manage and facilitate sessions of social skills therapy.
Applied Behavioral Analysis
This form of behavioral therapy uses rewards to support and reinforce positive behaviours or teach new skills to children with Autism. However, goals in this therapy are usually based on the individual. They might be focusing on:
Learning effective communication
Developing social skills
Learning hygiene and personal care techniques
The school works like hold crayons and pencils.
Moment-by-moment and timely feedback are essential in ABA therapy. That is why parents and caregivers are also trained. There are various techniques in Applied Behavioral Analysis. They are the following:
Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT)
Discrete Trial Training (DTT)
Verbal Behavior Intervention (VBI)
Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI)
Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)
Although relatively new, RDI has been trademarked as a form of therapy for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder. RDI is most beneficial for children who are only starting with therapy.
Sessions in RDI aim to teach children how to engage and establish relationships with their parents and siblings. Like most therapies for Children with Autism, RDI focuses on the disorder’s lack of social skills or interaction.
To maximize the opportunities and success of therapy, parents are usually trained and assisted in using all possible options to teach their child with Autism. This will allow active feedback to let him or her develop essential social skills.
Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
PECS Activity uses picture trading for complimentary items or activities. Children with Autism who find it hard to speak or understand cues may benefit from this program. However, PECS can be challenging to try for kids who are unwilling to communicate and whose interests aren’t in objects or specific activities.
Therapeutic Horseback Riding
Sometimes dubbed as “hippotherapy”, this unique form of therapy places a child in a horse with the goal of adjusting to the movements of the horse. This is attributed as a form of physical therapy style and has been effective in making children less irritable and hyperactive.
Children with Autism might find it hard to process sensory cues such as sounds, too bright lights, food textures, and loud noises. Enrolling in Sensory-Integration Therapies teaches your child to process these triggers. This is done by increasing slowly but gradually their tolerance with uncomfortable sensory cues via an interactive play-based program.
Due to sensitivity and selectivity, children with Autism might find it hard to get the recommended nutrition daily. A Registered Nutritionist or Nutrition Specialist can help design better meal plans for the child’s preferences and limited diet. When food and nutrition needs are met, the child may still grow as a healthy adult, even under special types of diet.
Gluten-free and Casein-free diets are the usual food customs for people with Autism.
Communication interventions are essential in behavior therapy. People with Autism might have difficulties in expressing their needs and desires. This lack of effective communication may result in conflicts and misunderstandings with people diagnosed with Autism.
Teaching communication skills may be done through technologies such as iPads or virtual platforms. But more effective processes usually include social learning through peer tutoring, amplifying games, and other group dynamics.
There are plenty of evidence-based therapy and counseling types that may assist the development and growth of children with Autism. They can range from those that allow personal growth or others that facilitate social interactions. Along the way, parents’ help is usually in need as an assistive approach in therapy.
Apart from choosing which therapy will fit your child’s needs and preferences, parents must also be careful in choosing which care provider to ask for help and advice. Ensure that your therapist is proven, licensed, and skilled enough to manage your child’s special needs. It is also essential to recognize if your child feels safe and enjoys the therapy. If you see that your child is not growing or is not learning enough, it is better to ask for help from your doctor or find better therapy providers to suit what your child needs.
Living with a mental disorder is tougher than most people can ever fathom. I would know because I had been surrounded by loved ones who suffered from various illnesses that made them act oddly.
The first one I encountered was my big brother. He was on the autism spectrum. My memory was of him crying – no, wailing – loudly in the house because Mom tried to hug him. I learned early not to make physical contact with my brother unless he opened his arms without prompting.
The second one was my best friend. She did not manifest any symptoms in the beginning. In truth, she was one of the smartest pupils in our school. However, it turned out that my best friend had Asperger’s syndrome – another form of autism that made it challenging for her to recognize emotions. While other kids made fun of her because of that, I stood beside her and sometimes even fought the bullies for her.
Then, I had a roommate in college with an eating disorder. The initial red flag was that she would order buckets of fries and at least a dozen burgers from McDonald’s, and then she would disappear in the bathroom for hours. I only found out when I caught her trying to purge. Still, I did not judge her.
Due to such situations that I found myself in, I thought that working with people with mental disorders was my calling. I thought long and hard about what I could do in my life, considering I knew I did not want to lose time for my big brother. After some time, a brilliant idea crossed my mind: online counseling.
I was already a licensed psychologist when I thought of it. I technically had two years of professional experience at the time, but I knew that my heart was not in it. But since I still wanted to help people, I began taking lessons for counseling and even earned certifications.
What is the best online counseling service?
BetterHelp is the best online counseling service.
Can I talk to a counselor online for free?
Yes, you can talk to a counselor online for free. There are platforms like 7 cups of tea that offers free services, knowing that some people who need mental help do not have extra bucks to spare.
How effective is online counseling?
Online counseling is practically as good as one-on-one counseling. The patient can talk or chat with the counselor whenever they experience the symptoms of their mental disorders. This fact has been proven in a 2018 study.
The caveat is that a limited number of conditions can be treated by online counseling. It mainly includes anxiety and mood disorders (e.g., anxiety, depression, phobia, etc.). If you have a borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, or other illnesses, it may not be suitable for you.
How do I become an online counselor?
All counselors go through the same process, whether they choose to practice online or not. You need to start by getting a master’s degree in counseling. After that, you should do an internship to gain some experience in the field. It’s only when you complete your hours as an intern that you can apply for a counseling license and then decide to become an online counselor.
Considering you want to remain as an online counselor, updating your knowledge regularly is a must. That’s especially true since we often see mental health advancements.
How much do counselors make on BetterHelp?
Online counselors make approximately $30 per hour on BetterHelp. Though it is considerably lower than what face-to-face counselors get, this rate is still higher than what many virtual mental health professionals get.
Is Talkspace or BetterHelp better?
It depends on the medium of counseling that you prefer to use. In case you only want to chat with your counselor and remain anonymous, you may think that Talkspace is better. However, if you wish to see your counselor through a video call, BetterHelp is a better choice.
Is BetterHelp worth the money?
Yes, BetterHelp is worth the money. Not only does it extend the convenience of getting help without leaving your room, but it also offers a high level of anonymity that you cannot guarantee to obtain when you walk into a counseling facility.
Is Talkspace or BetterHelp cheaper?
Talkspace is cheaper than BetterHelp by at least $10. The reason is that the former offers fewer media of counseling than the latter.
Can you cancel BetterHelp at any time?
Yes, you are free to cancel BetterHelp at any time. The online counseling platform does not bind you in any contract that will prevent you from leaving whenever you wish to.
Can I get my money back from BetterHelp?
Yes, you can technically get your money back from BetterHelp, provided that their team has investigated your issue with their services and deem you worthy of getting a partial or full refund. You may send an email to them for further assistance.
How do I request a new counselor, BetterHelp?
Assuming you have already picked an online counselor and want to change it, you can open your profile and click the Change Counselor button. Doing so will show you up to six profiles of different mental health professionals, complete with their availability. If none of them works, you may click Find a Therapist again.
Can BetterHelp write prescriptions?
No, BetterHelp cannot write prescriptions for you – the platform can only provide online counseling. Despite that, BetterHelp partners with Brightside, which can offer psychiatric help remotely so that you can get your medication.
What raises dopamine naturally?
Your lifestyle choices affect your body’s dopamine production more than anything. Practically speaking, doing too much of anything may be exhilarating at first, but it can make you feel blue later. You need to look for a balance in your activities to elevate your dopamine level naturally.
Can a therapist write prescriptions?
Not exactly, especially if the therapist only has certifications to provide therapy. But in case the therapist is also a psychiatrist, they can do that.
Can BetterHelp diagnose you?
Unfortunately, no, BetterHelp cannot diagnose their clients. Most counselors and therapists have licensed psychologists, but they cannot offer a diagnosis without meeting the individual first.
The challenge that I did not see coming after getting certified as a counselor was figuring out which counseling platform to use. Setting up a website for myself was out of the question, considering I did not have time and money to do that. I did not want to offer online counseling full-time and in-person either, given that that would consume too much of my time. Luckily, I eventually found one that could protect my future clients and me from digital crime. The bonus was that I could continue looking after my big brother.
When a child in the family is diagnosed with autism, it doesn’t only transform the life of the child but of the entire family as well. Stress levels are high due to erratic therapy appointments, home treatments, and other problems at work and home. Financial burdens would also come in, as treatment and therapy are quite expensive.
These sources of stress will impact family life in different unfavorable ways. Parents are obliged to care for their autistic child, let alone all their children and the rest of the family. Managing the stress of being parents could build strength in the family and the marriage, but this needs a strong support system and, of course, hard work.
The impact of autism spectrum disorder to parents and families are seen in several ways.
Impact To Marriage. Research reveals that parents who have autistic children had almost 10% changes in filing for divorce than other parents. Marriage stressors may include:
Quality time as a couple becomes hard because of the many therapies and doctors’ appointment schedules.
Parents usually acknowledge their child’s ASD diagnosis through different means and different times, and this may cause conflict between both of them.
It is daunting and frustrating to look for childcare.
Financial burdens can cause issues between parents.
Impact Between Siblings. A child diagnosed with having the spectrum also has a big impact on his brother or sister. Siblings also go through a lot of stresses confronted by the rest of the family. Further, parents might not give them sufficient attention and support because their hands are full with commitments for their autistic child. In other families with children with ASD, a more severe type of sibling rivalry is often seen. Some families can overcome these problems if they are in control of the factors that increase their stress and anxiety.
Emotional Impact. Autism spectrum disorder covers many emotional struggles for the entire family, which begins even before the diagnosis and progresses indefinitely. The Pediatrics Journal reported that moms of kids with ASD frequently graded their mental health status has average or poor. Unlike the general population, the level of stress that these moms go through is much higher. Aside from this, parents of children with ASD mostly encounter:
Shame over their child’s erratic behavior when they are in the public
Depression and insecurity over other parents not having to experience what they are going through
Guilt from the thought that they might have done something that caused the autism
Bitterness towards their child and remorse for feeling bitter
Hopelessness because there is no cure for autism
Impact On Finances. A family who has an autistic member is often confronted with heavy financial burdens. The cost of treatments and therapies is usually not covered by private health insurers, which is a bit costly. Parents pay for doctors’ visits and medications, which results in big financial debts. Pediatrics stated that families with ASD children went through almost 15% of loss in their family funds. Full-time jobs become difficult for both parents, so the risk of losing a job is high, severely affecting the family’s financial situation.
A good initial step to solving the problems that arise in families because of autism is gaining more knowledge of how it impacts family members and connections. Counseling can guide parents in learning how to manage communication and marriage problems, while psychotherapy helps tackle the impact of autism mentally and emotionally. They can also try joining support networks where they get to meet fellow parents with autistic kids. On the other hand, parents, too, should take good care of themselves to be efficient caregivers to their children.
How Parents Can Avoid Stress
Undoubtedly, stress is part and parcel of one’s life, but there are still things that parents can do to get rid of stress and be successful in tackling the challenges of having an autistic child.
Be organized. Often, stress is associated with not being in control of things. Being organized is an efficient means to get things and even stress levels manageable. In your everyday life, for instance, concentrate on having things done one at a time. Try practicing family rules and routines and make adjustments for your child with autism.
Stick to family traditions. Traditions in the family provide a sense of balance amidst stressful times. You may need to make changes to your previous traditions to meet your child’s needs. For instance, your usual long trips on the weekends may need to be done closer to home so that you don’t need to drive long hours, and emergencies can be handled better when you’re not too far away from home.
Take care of yourself. When you have an autistic child, it not uncommon to neglect self-care. However, you can decrease the stress and anxiety in the family by ensuring that all members are given time to do the things that they love to do. Make a list of things that each member’s hobbies or bucket lists and then try to incorporate these and plan on which ones to do next. Remind the family, including you, that fun and happiness are part of one’s daily life.
This year could not have gotten worse for my family and me. For starters, the pandemic took place and forced all of us to hide in our houses for months. Then, I lost my job when the company could no longer pay its employees, while my husband’s job only had him working for three out of six days a week. But the mother of our worries rooted back from when a psychiatrist said that my three-year-old son, Jaren, had low-functioning autism.
Most parents would often claim that their kids were special, but I was among those few individuals who did not want to admit that my child had been extra special from the beginning.
Our Family Journey
The signs of low-functioning autism began to manifest in my son from an early age of three. Since my husband and I both had full-time jobs, I left Jaren at the daycare center on our ground floor. It was a seemingly easy setup, to be honest. I would drop my child off at the daycare around 8 A.M., visit him during my lunchtime, and pick him up at 4 P.M. after work.
However, after a month of following that routine, the kind teacher at the center pulled me to the side one day, saying she wanted to talk to me about Jaren. I thought she would tell me that he’s a prodigy at something, but her careful words took me off guard.
The teacher said, “Mrs. Jefferson, you have a sweet and gentle boy. He doesn’t make a mess like other kids and merely does as he’s told. Unfortunately, I need to suggest bringing Jaren to a child psychologist because he hasn’t been speaking at all.”
Like a mama bird, I initially wanted to curse the teacher and tell her to mind her own business. After all, no parent would be fond of hearing that there was possibly something wrong with their beloved child. That’s especially true for me since Jaren was our only son, and he was perfect in my eyes. But I closed my eyes and counted up to ten and thought that his teacher was merely concerned about his welfare.
After scheduling an appointment with a child psychologist and doing a few tests on Jaren, we found out that he was autistic.
Protecting My Son From The World
My husband and I couldn’t help but cry after the mental health professional revealed the sad news. Although there was no question about the endless support we would give to our son, we knew that Jaren’s life won’t always be easy. The older he became, the more he would come across narrow-minded people who might not understand his condition.
The first thing I suggested was to homeschool Jaren for the rest of his life. I assumed that that was the best way to protect him from the world and the haters that live in it. Despite that, my husband argued that we could shield him from anything by letting him live like a normal kid. Granted, Jaren would have to take special education classes, but he could be around other people often, which would help improve his social and communication skills.
I eventually agreed to my husband’s idea. More than anyone else, I wished for my son not to be defined by his mental health condition. He could still try to achieve any dream he might have, and his dad and I would forever have his back. Nonetheless, I had to add a few rules that my husband thankfully agreed with.
Not Letting The Boy Play Alone Outside
The ultimate rule was to keep Jaren from playing outside on his own, even if it’s just in our fenced backyard. The paranoia might come from the countless kidnapping movies I watched, but there was no harm in reducing the risk of that ever happening.
Saying No To Sleepovers Without Either Of Us
Many parents in my child’s daycare center had been introducing sleepovers to their kids, but I was not 100% into it. The only time that Jaren could try that was if it took place in our home, and my husband or I was present. This way, we could ensure that our son was cared for very well.
Enrolling The Child To Self-Defense Classes
Again, it’s perhaps my paranoid brain talking, but I encouraged my spouse to let our son take self-defense classes. While it was a challenge for him to follow instructions quickly, I figured that taking him there every week for as long as possible would do him some good.
Finding out that your only son had low-functioning autism was the most significant blow in our family. No one expected this diagnosis, so we were unable to prepare ourselves for it mentally and emotionally. Still, we will always love Jaren, so we will try our best to protect him from everything that might endanger his life.
There are a lot of misconceptions about how autistic people handle the pandemic situation. Most people believe that individuals with autism love isolation because they often feel the need to be alone. Well, somehow, it is true. However, it does not mean that autistic people do not feel sad and lonely from time to time. Honestly, most of them struggle with that aspect, especially now that they are experiencing heightened social limitations.
Most of the time, it confuses many people, especially those who try their best to understand and accommodate the autistic ones. Often, people leave them alone, thinking they need space. There’s the assumption that autistic individuals prefer it to be that way. Unfortunately, the real problem is that autistic individuals cannot express themselves that well. Most of the time, it is hard for them to convince people to stay by their sides. Autistic individuals are afraid to admit that they do not want to be alone.
But not all autistic individuals are the same. Some can express themselves in a way that others can understand easily. However, it does not guarantee that these people’s mental health will not go down after that. That is because most autistic individuals are not used to change. So when they try and make even simple adjustments on the way they express themselves, many behavioral issues can come out. It is a bit weird how autistic people deal with others because they can show mixed emotions in one particular circumstance. Perhaps that explains why the majority of people entirely want to leave them alone.
The Autistic Life Under Home Quarantine
Autistic people somehow function because they follow specific routines. But now that there’s a global health crisis, everything around them becomes way too challenging. Due to the drastic change, these people force themselves to do things they are not used to. Quite often, even walking outside for a couple of blocks becomes a struggling decision for them. They worry too much that they can no longer feel the desire to be happy at some point.
With this Coronavirus issue where home quarantine is essential, it is a challenging moment for people with autism. Some of them are living on their own, and some are barely seeing anybody. Most of their conversations with other people are through social media and video conferencing platforms. Some spend time chatting, texting, and telephone calls as well. Sometimes, these people do not go out of their homes even if they want to. With the likes of that routine, many people can quickly conclude that it is how autistic people deal with the pandemic situation. But the truth to that is most of these individuals also need company.
The majority of people with autism, though they like to be alone, need some companionship. At some level, being with someone allows them to function well. They can either be in the form of a romantic relationship, friendship, or family. Honestly, as much as they appreciate being away from absolute pressure during this crisis, autistic individuals still need someone in their lives. Yes, they need alone time to be able to prepare themselves in dealing with the unpredictable world outside. However, it does not mean they heed isolation.
Also, people with autism need regular therapy and so it’s a good thing that online therapy apps such as BetterHelp are now available in the time of the pandemic. People with autism don’t need to leave the comfort of their homes to have access to regular therapy. A lot of people have tried and got satisfied with how it turned out.
People should recognize that some individuals cannot handle the stress, anxiety, and loneliness caused by this pandemic. That even if some tell others that they are used to the situation, no one should think that isolation is entirely okay. In times like this, people should spare moments to speak, communicate, and be there for these autistic individuals.
The spread of COVID-19 is causing extensive disruption to all our lives. But for children with autism, it is twice more damage. It becomes incredibly hard for them to make adjustments, especially in the routine changes. The pressure can lead to an increase in stress, anxiety, and even depression. In unfortunate instances, it can negatively promote challenging behaviors. And for parents and caregivers of children with autism, the whole experience can mean a lot different. The struggle of juggling work and home responsibilities can somehow lead to emotional and mental exhaustion. So to help children and parents deal with the adjustment during this pandemic, here are some of the best things to do.
Establish New Routines
To cope with the disruptions in this time of global health situation, it is useful to establish new routines. No, it does not have to be a total routine make-over because a small and little by little changes are enough to sustain a better function. These new sets of tasks can help children with autism develop better emotional and mental strength and allows the whole family to avoid stress and anxiety as well. The entire family can begin by adjusting the morning routines and add something from there. Like for example, after waking up, let the kids arrange their beds before they head towards their breakfast. Or allow them to do some 5 to 10 minute stretching before they take a bath. Parents can also use the children’s school schedule as a guideline to add better transitions between activities and breaks.
Transition From School To Home
It is essential to understand that children with autism will not easily comply with the changes in their routines, even if the task only requires a small effort. Regardless of what it is, autistic children will find it stressful and exhausting. During this pandemic time, the biggest challenge for them is not going to school. So for some, the whole experience can cause trauma and unwanted behavior. For others, it will need more than a simple transition. So to be able to arrange impressive progress of transitioning, parents should allow kids to still do what the kids are used to do. These include waking up early, taking a bath, putting on kids’ school uniforms, and even pretend to ride a bus to school. From there, the transition can happen by removing some of the daily school tasks in an alternate process. There should be an alternative activity that will take the spot of the familiar routine.
Aside from school, therapies will also need to transition. Since we need to reduce physical interactions during this time, treatment will shift to online platforms like that of BetterHelp. No need to worry because these platforms employ licensed therapies that are professional and knowledgeable.
Create A School Space At Home
Children with autism love school, and not visiting it for an extended period can negatively affect their emotional and mental behavior. But since there are not many parents who can do due to the pandemic situation, they might as well create a school space at home. It will allow autistic children to feel and experience familiar habits regardless of a different environment. So to accomplish this, parents can try setting up a room that will enable school space activities. They can incorporate some of the children’s preferred classroom by putting up a desk and chairs. Parents can also copy an educational ambiance by setting up a blackboard, piling up some books, and even arranging art materials inside the room. If possible, parents can also use visual support to help increase children’s understanding. To make it more interesting for kids, parents can allow the children to assist in creating their new school space at home.
Dealing with the life effects of the pandemic is not easy. And for kids with autism experiencing challenging behavior during this time, parents must understand their essential roles in providing what’s best for them.