Life for an autistic child can be tumultuous; they are very sensitive to minor changes, have specific fears and are afraid of making social errors. Unfortunately, this can manifest itself in anxiety, a mental illness with the potential to be crippling for both child and family. Dr. Anne Chalfant, a renowned clinical psychologist and researcher gives tips to parents with kids on the Autism spectrum as to how they can prepare their child to deal with daily life in the best way.
Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder that affects early development of the brain. Autistic children or those on the autistic spectrum struggle understanding non-verbal communication such as facial expressions, eye contact or gestures, they can also have unusual mannerisms (like flapping hands or flicking), and unusual or obsessive behaviour over certain topics. Unfortunately, these symptoms can cause make the child anxious and nervous especially because they cannot always understand what is being said to them or what they are being told to do.
Parents must be mindful of the balance between pushing their child and being too protective
Dr. Chalfant encourages parents to help their children by creating a supportive environment, including setting up a schedule so the child knows what is expected of them. Balancing this with some aspects of spontaneity can prepare them for the dynamic nature of daily life. Parents must be mindful of the balance between pushing their child and being too protective, a natural response of fear is avoiding what is causing the distress but this also hinders your child from learning from these situations and thus being able to deal with them in the future.
Don’t ignore the other children in the family, warns Dr. Chalfant, the siblings of autistic children can often feel belittled by the amount of attention the parents may be paying to the other child. “Parents need to allocate their time evenly” says Dr. Chalfant, dividing parental duties so that the other child’s needs are met and they too can feel open about expressing their emotions and being heard on an equal plane to their sibling.
To learn more about how to support a child with autism and how to balance the family dynamic, read Dr. Anne Chalfant’s book Managing Anxiety in People with Autism or visit her website.