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6 Things You Can Do to Support Children on the Autism Spectrum

April 5, 2024

Navigating life’s challenges can be tough for everyone, but for children on the autism spectrum, the journey comes with its own set of difficulties. From struggling to fit in and make friends at school to feeling overwhelmed in social situations, the journey for these kids can often feel isolating.

As a parent of two autistic children, I’ve witnessed firsthand the difficulties they face in finding acceptance and inclusion in their communities. Because of that, supporting children with autism is crucial to helping them feel valued and included. Let’s explore some things you can do to help autistic kids feel more included and supported.

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5 Great Ways to Better Connect with Your Child with Autism

1. Provide a safe space to talk

Children with autism are frequently sensitive to sensory stimulation. This can make them feel overwhelmed in social situations, making it difficult for them to make friends. Providing a safe space to talk is one way to help them open up to you. 

Encourage your child to talk to you if they are having problems at school or with their friends. Let them know you care and that you want to assist them. 

While it is important not to pry into details of your child’s life that they do not want to discuss, it is also critical that they understand that you are available to listen if they need to talk. This way, you create a secure environment where your child can feel at ease discussing their issues.

2. Help them find their passions

Finding their passions is a crucial step in helping autistic children feel more included. Finding a foundation for a friendship can be challenging at times. But if your child has a hobby they can discuss with others, that might help close the gap. 

Give your child the freedom to express their interests. In particular, let them know they don’t have to keep their autism or other differences a secret from their friends.

It can be a great way for your child to meet others who share their passion. Additionally, it is an excellent way for them to relax and release tension when they are feeling anxious.

3. Help them build confidence

Making friends is very challenging for my youngest child, who is on the autism spectrum and lacks confidence. I often encourage him to try new things to improve his self-worth.

Two kids talking and drawing together https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/supporting-children-with-autism/

By imparting some fundamental social skills to them, you can also assist them in becoming more self-assured in social settings. Even though each autistic child is unique, there are a few general social skills that you can teach your child to help them feel more confident.

Because my youngest son struggles to make friends, I talk to him about friendships and how he can connect with others. My older son has difficulty seeing things from other people’s perspectives, so I teach him how to listen to others to help him understand them. 

Encourage your child to talk about any problems they may be experiencing. This will enable them to receive the support they require to deal with the issues and support confidence building.

4. Set small, attainable goals

Some children on the autism spectrum excel in the classroom, while others find it difficult to perform at their fullest. 

Setting small, doable goals with your child can be beneficial, regardless of where they are on the autism spectrum. By talking to them and learning what they want to accomplish, you can set manageable goals that are important to their lives.

Goals for your relationship with your child can also be established. Setting goals together with your child can foster a more cooperative relationship that will enable you to provide better support for them.

5. Help them develop social skills

Every child needs social skills, but children with autism spectrum disorders need them even more.

For example, my youngest child has trouble interpreting social cues and interacting with others. Working on social skills is a great way to help them fit in and make friends. 

Some of the most effective ways to support your child’s social skills development include:

  • Providing structured activities that encourage social interaction: It is easier for kids to learn social skills when they have opportunities to interact with one another. Children on the autism spectrum may benefit the most from this.
  • Limiting screen time: Although screen time can be helpful for kids with autism, too much of it can negatively impact their social skills. Make sure your child is also getting out and experiencing the real world.
  • Being inclusive: Make sure your child participates in activities with their friends. As a result, they will feel more included and assured in their capacity to interact with others.
  • Creating limits: Setting boundaries is equally important as ensuring your child participates in social activities. To help your child learn social skills, be sure to give them enough time. They might need extra attention.

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6. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries

Setting boundaries and helping your child fit in with their peers are both critical. There are a few general strategies that can help you set boundaries with your child, even though every parent-child relationship is distinct.

Here are some tips for setting boundaries with your autistic child:

  • Ensure that you are involving your child in appropriate activities. Avoid forcing your child into social situations for which they are not prepared.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your child for help if you need it. When I ask my son for help, he always responds with such joy.
  • Remain composed when setting boundaries. This will help keep your child calm and make it simpler for them to pay attention to you.
  • My friend once advised me to make a habit of telling my children how important and valued they are to me, and I have found this to be the most helpful advice. It has undoubtedly enhanced my relationship with them.

Supporting children with autism

Growing up on the autism spectrum can be a challenging experience. The social pressures of school and other social settings can make life even more difficult for autistic children. However, you can do these things to help autistic children feel included in any setting.

Providing a safe space to talk, assisting them in discovering their passions, aiding them in developing confidence, setting small attainable goals, helping them develop social skills, and setting boundaries are all important ways to support a child who is on the autism spectrum.

FAQs

Q: What support do autistic children need?

A: Autistic children need personalized support tailored to their unique sensory, communication, and social needs, including structured routines and clear expectations. They require understanding, acceptance, and access to specialized therapies and interventions to help them thrive and reach their full potential.

Q: How can a family support a child with autism?

A: A family can support a child with autism by providing a structured environment, clear routines, and consistent communication while also seeking professional guidance and therapies tailored to the child’s needs. Showing unconditional love, patience, and understanding can greatly contribute to the child’s sense of security and self-esteem.

Q: How do you calm down an autistic child?

A: Provide a quiet environment with familiar objects that help them regulate sensory input. Use clear, simple language to communicate reassurance and support. Consider employing sensory tools like weighted blankets or fidget toys to offer comfort and aid self-regulation.

References: 

Adams, D., Young, K., Simpson, K., & Keen, D. (2019). Parent descriptions of the presentation and management of anxiousness in children on the autism spectrum. Autism, 23(4), 980-992. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362361318794031 

Frolli A, Savarese G, Di Carmine F, Bosco A, Saviano E, Rega A, Carotenuto M, Ricci MC. Children on the Autism Spectrum and the Use of Virtual Reality for Supporting Social Skills. Children. 2022; 9(2):181. https://doi.org/10.3390/children9020181  

COUNCIL ON CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES, SECTION ON DEVELOPMENTAL AND BEHAVIORAL PEDIATRICS; Identification, Evaluation, and Management of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder. Pediatrics January 2020; 145 (1): e20193447. 10.1542/peds.2019-3447

Laura Fontil, Ingrid E. Sladeczek, Jalisa Gittens, Nataliya Kubishyn, Kothar Habib, From early intervention to elementary school: A survey of transition support practices for children with autism spectrum disorders, Research in Developmental Disabilities, Volume 88, 2019, Pages 30-41, ISSN 0891-4222, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2019.02.006 

Jackson, L., Keville, S. & Ludlow, A.K. Mothers’ Experiences of Accessing Mental Health Care for their Child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Child Fam Stud 29, 534–545 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-019-01662-8 

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