It may be surprising to know, but autistic children are less likely to intentionally “act out” than the average child. Behaviours commonly seen in autistic kids, like hitting, climbing, running away, and refusing to take part in activities, are often brought on by issues which can easily be remedied by a calm, steady and imaginative caretaker. The tips and hints provided here will hopefully make autism care easier, by helping you to manage your child’s anxiety in certain situations.
Know Your Child and Their Habits
It’s very rare for an autistic child to intentionally misbehave, but many exhibit out-of-the-norm behaviours. Every child is different, and knowing them well is the first step in taking action. If your child is very sensitive to stimuli like light and sound, or is likely to pull back when approached closely, you can use that knowledge to pinpoint the cause of their anxiety and “misbehaviour”.
Adjust Your Standards and Expectations
As a child, you may have been expected to sit quietly through dinner, but if you have a child with autism, you may have to rid yourself of that expectation. To minimize strife and anxiety, start with a smaller and more manageable goal, such as using their utensils, or sitting quietly for a couple of minutes, and work your way up to the larger goals.
Change Your Child’s Environment
As with all kids, safety is very important, but with an autistic child, building a safe environment can be a tough challenge. Many of an autistic child’s behaviours can be considered dangerous, so it’s essential that you take safety precautions. Measures like installing deadbolts on your doors (out of their reach), bolting shelves and appliances to the floor wherever possible and installing latches on cabinets will all help.
Try to Find the Behaviour’s Origin
Many kids with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) either respond too strongly to sensory input, or they seek it excessively. Some even shift from one extreme to the other, and in many cases, misbehaviour is their way of reacting to their level of sensory input. By paying attention to your child’s reaction, you might be able to figure out why they’re acting in a particular way.
Remove the Source of High Sensory Input
If your child tends to overreact to sensory stimuli, there are ways you can minimize their reaction. The easiest of these is to avoid stimulating situations such as theme parks, fireworks displays, concerts, and the like. When you can’t avoid them, you may want to consider offering your child a pair of earplugs, a toy as a means of distraction, or if all else fails, a bit of bribery.
Find an Appropriate Outlet for Their Behaviour
?While you may not want them to climb the furniture or hang from the chandelier, taking your child to a playground or rock-climbing wall can provide them with a good outlet for all their energy. If your child spins in circles in the middle of the store, people may look at them oddly— but if you put them on a merry-go-round, no one will give it a second thought. Behaviours that are seen as unorthodox in some situations are seen as completely normal in others.
As the parent of an autistic child, you of course want to do everything in your power to protect and nurture them. You shouldn’t force them to participate in activities that bring them fear, but if you provide them with an appropriate outlet for their behaviours, they (and you) will better be able to manage anxiety. ?
In many cases, you may decide to invest in supported living services. Don’t feel as if this is ‘admitting defeat’ or something to be ashamed of; many parents need a break from caring for an autistic child and the result is that both child and parent benefit.
This post was written by James Harper on behalf of Voyage who provide supported living and autism care for adults and children. Please follow this link to find out more.