10 Effective Strategies for Parents of Children with Autism

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10 Effective Strategies for Parents of Children with Autism

Posted on: April 3rd, 2019 by Autism Therapy Group


As a parent, receiving a diagnosis of autism for your child can be overwhelming and invoke feelings of fear, grief, and even loss.  However, these difficult emotions can also be important motivators for parents to find the resources they and their child need to cope, grow, and thrive.


What is Autism?


Autism literally means “aloneness,” or living in one’s own world.  In severe cases, children may have no ability to interact with others, treating people the same way as they treat objects. Even in milder cases, children may have difficulty understanding and relating to others, and will find it especially challenging to understanding other people’s perspectives and emotions.


Without treatment, children on the spectrum may not develop effective social skills and struggle with communication and appropriate behavior. It’s very unusual for individuals to function well in society without any intervention.


While finding appropriate treatment is essential, dealing with the day-to-day care of a child with autism is challenging for the best of us. If you’re the parent or caretaker of a child with autism, our hope is that the following strategies will help you manage the realities of life in an effective, positive way.


  1. 1. Ask for help.

Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. As a caretaker of a child with autism, one of the best things you can do is to be open and honest about what you need. Often, there are more people out there than you think who are ready and willing to help.


Reach out to other parents who are on a similar journey and professionals who can help and support you. Most importantly, find a supportive community for you, your child, and your family.


  1. 2. Find a support group.

Part of asking for help is connecting to other parents and caretakers in the ASD community. You may be surprised at the welcome that you’ll receive. Receiving the diagnosis of Autism or Asperger’s for your child can be overwhelming. Having the support of those that have faced the same challenges is not only desirable – it’s essential.


  1. 3. Give others the benefit of the doubt.

When you’re the parent of a child with autism, it’s probably inevitable that you’ll receive a negative comment from time to time and feel that people are judging you and your child’s behavior. Most of the time, it’s just that they don’t understand the truth about ASD. Take the opportunity to educate them about what autism is. Explain the effort required by a child with autism to cope with normal day-to-day interactions that the rest of us take for granted.


  1. 4. Engage in floor activities.

Many children with autism have difficulty making eye contact and engaging with other people. This is the perfect opportunity to get down where they are and enter THEIR world.


  1. 5. Introduce different textures through play.

Children on the autism spectrum are often challenged with tactile sensitivities, finding specific textures irritating or even frightening. It can be useful to explore various textures with your child through play. Playing games with textured balls or blocks, introducing different washcloths at bath time, making crafts or playdough from scratch, and even baking can be fun, safe ways for your child to experience different textures.


  1. 6. Learn to speak in 2-3 words phrases.

For children with limited vocabulary, or those who are completely non-verbal, limiting communication to 2-3 word phrases can be more effective than long sentences. For example, Stand up. Sit down. Get the toy. Lights off. Brush teeth.


  1. 7. Create as much structure as possible within your home.

All individuals with autism have a high need for structure. As much as possible, create reliable systems for your child so that they know what to expect. For example, many parents find it useful to use a timer to communicate when one activity is over and another is beginning. Structure decreases anxiety and helps children with autism feel more in control of their world, which can, in turn, decrease destructive behavior.


  1. 8. Set reasonable expectations.

Help your child find success more often through setting reasonable expectations for them. Be realistic with goals and create specific strategies for their achievement. (Your ABA Therapist can help!) Every step towards a goal should be broken down into clear, manageable steps so that your child can experience their progress in a concrete way.


  1. 9. Establish play dates.

It’s common for parents of children with autism to express frustration that their child has a difficult time making friends or doesn’t seem to like anyone. They might even appear afraid of other children because they don’t know how to manage social interactions. Work with your ABA Therapist to create a plan for regular, controlled social interaction so that your child can begin to learn how to engage with other people in socially acceptable ways. This process can be difficult and slow. Ask for help, be as patient as you can, and keep going. This social training will form the foundation for their future success.


  1. 10. Never Lose Hope.

The most important piece of advice we have for parents of children on the spectrum is this: Children with autism have the potential to grow, improve, and thrive. 


Autism IS treatable and if you hear otherwise, the source of that information is out of touch with current therapy options. It IS important to find effective therapy options for children with autism as soon as possible. The earlier children receive appropriate treatment, the better their prognosis.


The good news is that there are effective treatment options.


Even though every child is different, children with autism are typically challenged with deficits in the areas of sensory processing, visual perception, motor skills, social skills and communication.


Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is the most effective therapy for dealing with these challenges and creating growth patterns that help the child function in a more positive way in the world. ABA therapy generally involves a therapist working one-on-one with your child for as many as 20 to 40 hours each week. Children are taught skills in a simple step-by-step manner that includes plenty of repetition and routine. After a while, therapy generally includes more global situations and community environments.


If you suspect that your child has autism, but have not yet received a diagnosis, we urge you to make an appointment to see your child’s physician. If you like, you can review some of the most prevalent signs of autism in this article. However, if your child does have autism, getting a diagnosis is important because it can open the doors to many services, and help you as a parent access quality information about treatments options.


As always, we are here to help! Contact us for questions about the most positive, effective treatment options available for children on every point of the spectrum.

Behavioral Modification Strategies for Children with Autism

Posted on: February 1st, 2019 by Autism Therapy Group

8 Strategies for Dealing with Challenging Behavior in Children on the Autism Spectrum


A little girl painting a picture.


Dealing with the behavioral challenges in children with autism can be quite frustrating for parents, teachers, and other care professionals. Acting out can happen suddenly, last for hours, and be hard to control. In public settings, the behavior can trigger fear or embarrassment, further compounding the problem. At home, constant temper tantrums can create feelings of hopelessness and exhaustion for parents and other care takers.


The child is frustrated because they don’t know how to get what they want. Care takers are frustrated because they don’t know how to help or change the situation. Something has to give.


The following is a list of strategies that can help prevent difficult behavior AND promote positive behavior for children on the autism spectrum. Remember that every child is different. It’s important to be patient and know that it might be necessary to try different strategies to determine what works best with your child or student.


Remember that there is no such thing as a magic one-size-fits-all solution for every challenge.All any of us can do is try our best to implement effective strategies that teach children positive ways to get their needs met. As always, if you feel like the situation with your child is unmanageable, seek help.


1. Be clear with the child about what’s happening next.


For example, “After you finish this game, it is time to put on your pajamas.” Or, “In 10 minutes, we are going to get into the car and drive to school.”


For many children with autism it’s helpful to set a timer. Being able to visually track time can help the child understand the difficult concept of time. For some children, it might even be necessary to include reminders as the time is winding down – “There are 2 minutes left until we leave. There is 1 minute until we leave.”


For children who struggle to understand verbal communication, pictures that visually represent a series of upcoming events can be extremely useful. For example, if you want the child to sit down at the dinner table after they complete a puzzle, you might show them a “first/then” board with pictures of a puzzle and then the dinner table.


Technology can be a tremendous help with these kinds of strategies. There are several great apps for tablets and smart phones that contain a library of photos to create “first /then” boards right on the screen.


  1. 2. Children with autism thrive on predictability.


It’s extremely important for children with autism to know what to expect from the people and situations in their world. If caretakers don’t implement expectations with consistency and follow through, it creates uncertainty that often leads to anxiety and acting out.


Do your best to make their world predictable. For example, tell the child that you will give them a snack if they finish their homework and then do not fail to keep your end of the bargain. It can also be helpful to create predictability through daily routines. For example, homework, then dinner, then one television show, then get ready for bed.


As we’ve already discussed timers and “first/then” boards are useful to communicate the predictability of events. In many cases, as the child comes to know what’s expected and trust that caretakers will follow through, the rigidity of routines can relax a bit over time.


Keep in mind that difficult behaviors are more likely to come out when things aren’t predictable, and no one can make life predictable all the time. Just do your best and get back in the swing of a predictable routine as soon as possible.


  1. 3. Allow children to earn privileges in exchange for compliance with clear expectations.


Children with autism often respond well to the concept of earning privileges if they follow the rules. For example, let’s say your child has a history of throwing a fit when you won’t allow them to visit the toy section at Target. Before going to the store, explain exactly what to expect from the outing: “We are going to Target. We are going to shop for groceries, pay for our groceries, and then we are going home. We are not going to the toy section. If you follow the rules, you can play video games for 30 minutes.”


Remember that children who struggle with understanding verbal communication often respond better to pictures and visual cues. In these cases, set expectations with pictures and physical examples. For example, rather than telling the child to hold on to the shopping cart, demonstrate what it looks like to walk while holding onto the shopping cart. Show, rather than tell.


  1. 4. Offer the child a few set choices.


Every child likes to feel that they have some control over their world and one way to do this is to offer choices. For children with autism, it’s usually a good idea to limit the choices to a few pre-determined options. Too many choices, or choices that are too open-ended, can be scary and overwhelming. For example, “Would you like to play this video game or work on a puzzle?” Or, “Would you like a peanut butter sandwich or a tuna fish sandwich?”


Once again, for children who struggle to understand language, present choices with pictures, encouraging them to point at the option they choose.


  1. 5. Create a daily schedule and allow the child to bring a transitional object from one activity to the next.


As we stated earlier, children with autism thrive on predictability, so daily routines are extremely beneficial. Break down routines into specific times of day. For example, create a before school routine, a during school routine, an after-school routine, and a bed time routine.


Visual schedules might include pictures of activities in order, such as the child eating a snack, doing their homework, setting the table, sitting down to dinner, etc.


In some cases, it’s useful to allow the child to bring a favorite object from one situation to the next. For example, if the child is at home playing with a stuffed toy when it’s time to go to speech therapy, allow them to bring the stuffed toy along. This can assist with helping him transition from one environment to the next.


6. As much as possible, when giving a child a task or assignment, set clear expectations for start and end times.


For example, instead of saying, “I want you to put all the toys in your room away”, tell them, “From 1:00 to 1:15, I want you to pick up the toys in your room and put them away.” For most children, it’s useful to set a timer so that the child has a concrete representation of the specific block of time.


For certain tasks, it’s more useful to communicate the visual cues that will allow the child to know when the task is complete. For example, “When you complete these 10 math problems, you are done with your homework and can go watch your television show.” In cases where the task has a clear visual ending, a timer is not always necessary.


In situations where the child is getting overwhelmed or frustrated with the length of time the task requires, it can be useful to allow a clearly defined break that lets the child do something enjoyable before returning to the task.


  1. 7. Many children with autism excel at hands-on or visual activities.


A great way to encourage calm behavior like sitting still and waiting patiently is to keep the child focused on a hands-on activity they enjoy. For example, if you are waiting in a doctor’s office with your child, bring a handful of blocks and instruct them to sort them by color or size. If you need your child to allow you 15 minutes to prepare dinner, instruct them to sort silverware or laundry, rather than telling them to “play quietly”.


  1. 8. Remain calm.


We know that caring for a child with autism can be difficult and frustrating. However, getting upset is a sure-fire way to make difficult behavior even worse. When your child is acting out, do your best to remain calm. It can be useful to create a system of support for those times when staying calm is particularly difficult. For example, you might call a friend, family member, or therapist for support.


Understand that yelling and threatening a child with autism will not improve their behavior, and may actually make the behavior worse by creating anxiety or fear in the child. Children with autism are not choosing to frustrate you. That is not their goal. They are trying to get their needs met and simply don’t know how.


Keep in mind that some children on the autism spectrum have trouble generalizing expectations across situations, and if you are using a strategy for the first time, you might not see a change right away. In some cases, the child will push against the strategy at first simply because it’s new and unfamiliar. It can be tough, but do your best to remain patient and implement these strategies with consistency.

Autism-Friendly Eating Out Tips

Posted on: December 7th, 2016 by Autism Therapy Group

Eating out should always be an escape, an enjoyable, relaxing experience, but when you’re going out to eat with your kids, things don’t always go as planned. If your family has a member on the autism spectrum, these challenges may keep you at home, feeling too overwhelmed to take on the whole endeavor.


But it doesn’t have to be that way, and every family deserves to enjoy a nice outing where you share laughs over delicious food (that you don’t have to cook or clean – bonus!).  Here are some tips you can try to embrace going out to eat with the whole family.


  1. Prepare before your outing:

  3. food-plate

Those with autism thrive on schedules and predictability, so springing a restaurant trip out of the blue may be a trigger for your child. Instead, plan and prepare ahead of time by talking about the plans, going over questions and answers such as:


  • Where are you going and why?
  • When are you going there? What day, what time, how much longer?
  • Who is going with you?
  • Has your child been to this restaurant before?
  • Will there be a waiting period? If so, where will you wait and how long will that be? What activities can you do while you’re waiting? Are reservations available?
  • Review the menu online with your child – what foods sound good to them?
  • Is there a special event you’re celebrating?


  1. Role play:

  3. tables

There are several YouTube videos specifically for children and children with autism role playing different situations like going out to eat. You can watch these videos with your child and practice role playing with your family at home.


Simulate the restaurant experience, including the following: walking in the doors, checking in with the host, waiting, choosing seats, meeting the server, being given a menu, looking at choices and making up your mind, ordering and speaking to the server (or asking mom or dad to help), talking with the guests, etc.


You can also read books or point out on TV shows when families are eating out, talking about their behavior and steps in the whole process.


  1. Create a visual schedule:

  3. schedule

To coincide with your planning and preparing ahead phase, you can also create a visual schedule that will remind your child in an easy way the steps in going out to eat. Create the visual supports with your child so he or she is involved in the experience from start to finish. Some steps to consider including:


  • Driving or other transportation to the restaurant
  • Who will be there with your group
  • Waiting to be seated
  • Who else will be there at the restaurant (other guests, hostess, servers)
  • Menu and ordering food
  • Communicating with family while waiting for food
  • Table manners
  • Paying and leaving the restaurant

You can make this by hand or use an online visual tool kit or organizer to create something on the computer.
With proper planning and practicing, your family can enjoy a nice trip out to a restaurant. Don’t let fear get in the way – the more you try, the more you will learn, and if an obstacle arises, don’t let it throw you off track. Use it as a learning experience for how you can modify your plan and trip for the next time around.


How do you prepare for restaurant outings with your family?

Enjoying the Holiday Season with Your Special Needs Child

Posted on: December 7th, 2016 by Autism Therapy Group

The holidays are often a stressful time for adults, filled with party engagements, shopping, spending, cooking, cleaning, and lots of preparations. As the parent of a child with special needs, sometimes the holidays can bring an extra stress, with movies, television, and commercials showing supposed “normal” families smiling and laughing through their holiday traditions.


But what if your family looks and feels different? What if your family doesn’t fit that cookie cutter mold (and whose does, actually?). You might feel sad that your family doesn’t match those picture perfect ones on TV; then you might feel guilty that you feel this way and ultimately you may feel alone, like you’re the only one feeling this way.


Shouldn’t the season be filled with love, peace, joy, and enjoying simple family moments? You don’t have to just survive this season – you deserve to embrace it! Check out these 3 tips to maximize the special time with your special needs child and your family in general.


  1. Lose the guilt:

  3. How can you say yes to a cocktail party and leave your special needs child at home? How can you have a carefree night out filled with laughter when you have far more serious, pressing issues on your plate? Just because you’re the parent of a child with special needs does not mean you don’t get to enjoy time away from home.

When you take time to take care of yourself, you’ll actually be a better spouse, friend, and of course, parent. So say ‘yes’ – having time away from home with your family and friends and allowing yourself to let loose a bit will help you emotionally, mentally, and physically, giving you the recharge you need to be the best parent you can to your children.


  1. Take on what you can:

  3. At the same time, you don’t have to say yes to every invitation and engagement; spreading yourself too thin or putting yourself in social situations that you’re uncomfortable with never end well. Don’t worry about what your family or friends will think about you saying no – ultimately you have to decide what is best for you and your family.

Think about activities, events, and locations that will make you and your child feel happy – isn’t that what it’s all about? Surround yourself with supportive people who will add to your experience and make your child feel comfortable. Don’t use your child as an excuse to shut yourself away or to isolate yourself, but find a happy balance of fun, engaging activities, even a small get together at home, and pushing yourself to try new, safe activities to get out in public.


  1. You’re not alone:

  3. You may feel like the only family who is different, but guess what? You are not alone. In fact, there are other families in your very own community who are feeling the same way, so why not reach out to those who will understand you most?

The holidays are a trying time for anyone, with financial burdens causing stress and having a general feeling of being spread too thin. You’re not alone. Connect with others online or through community groups to bridge the isolated gap, have your feelings validated, and unite with like-minded people.


There’s plenty of time to take back the holiday season, and not only ‘get through’ it, but to truly embrace it, as an individual and for your whole family.  How do you welcome the holiday season? How do you manage difficult, stressful times?

Practicing Social Skills with Your Child

Posted on: November 14th, 2016 by Autism Therapy Group


Understanding social cues and having appropriate social skills is incredibly important yet challenging for those with special needs. Just like with any skill, practice makes perfect – check our list of activities you can practice with your child to enhance his or her awareness of social cues and allow your child to run through these actions in a safe and supportive environment.

Not only will practicing these skills be a bonding experience with your child, but it will show him or her that you care while boosting confidence.
Interpreting emotions

No matter where your child goes – home, school, the cafeteria, playground, soccer field, or out at the mall – it’s imperative to be able to pick up on emotions and understand them correctly. By understanding emotional faces and body language, your child will be able to appropriately respond to various social situations.

A simple way to work on emotions if to make a face or show body language associated with a certain feeling; then have your child imitate you. You can start off with something silly and goofy to keep the mood light and fun.


Understanding idioms

Picking up on idioms can be challenging for children, and for those on the autism spectrum, idioms are downright confusing. To help your child understand the difference between a literal statement and an idiom and to understand what those idioms mean, try some activities with them.


  • Books:

  • Take a trip your library and check out books on idioms. Try this list for a great, fun way to teach idioms from The Best Children’s Book site.
  • books


Eye contact

Establishing solid eye contact creates interest in conversation and shows confidence. Try these activities to practice strong and appropriate eye contact.

  • Sticker on the forehead:

  • This idea comes from Children Succeed. Put a sticker in the middle of your forehead (you can use a sticker of eyes if you want!) and encourage your child to look at the sticker during conversation. Many people find direct eye contact intimidating, so this is a great stepping stone to train them to look in the right direction in a less threatening way.
  • eye-contact


  • Staring contest:

    When practicing social skills, why not make a game or contest out of it? Have a friendly staring contest with your child, or if he or she is competitive, it could turn into a serious competition! Let the games begin.

How do you practice social skills with your child? What activities or strategies work for you?

Autism Coping Skills for Parents

Posted on: October 14th, 2016 by Autism Therapy Group


As a parent of a child with autism, only you can understand the unique dynamics, obstacles, joys, and struggles that occur on a daily and nightly basis, but don’t worry, even though it may feel like it at times, you are not alone. Thousands of other families are handling similar situations, and the great news? There are coping skills you can use during those trying moments.

  1. Avoid the internet:
    What’s the first thing people turn to in times of need, desperation, or questioning? The internet, of course. It’s an endless resource, literally available at your very fingertips any time of the night or day.

Put your phone down. Turn the computer off. Stay off the internet.
What may start as good intention will turn into an endless black hole of “information,” leading you in hundreds of different directions, often spiraling out of control. What you need in your times of need is calm. What you need is security. The internet can be a wonderful resource but can also be your worst enemy.

When you feel the need to Google your dilemma, write it down in a journal, call a friend, turn to a book, and wait to call your doctor.

  1. Network:
    While you should trust your doctor and therapists for medical advice, sometimes the best and most comforting support you will receive is from other parents who have been there. This is where the internet can actually be a useful tool – use it to network with parents of children with autism and start building relationships.

Remember, you may feel alone, but you are not alone. Connecting with other families will assure you of this, and you can lean on one another for support, share your triumphs, and offer to listen through those bad days.

A word of caution and advice? While online groups, including social media networks, can be an excellent source of support, you should be prepared to brush off unsolicited advice. Weed through any negativity and focus on those positive relationships.

  1. Give yourself grace:
    Through the good and challenging days, doctor office waiting rooms, and waiting for school meetings, your responsibilities go on and on. Don’t forget to give yourself allowances for you Taking care of yourself is not selfish; in fact, you will be the best help to your child if you first take care of yourself. Get into a habit of making “me time” every day, even as little as 20 minutes; whether it’s reading before bed, getting in a quick workout, or finding a peaceful moment to reflect and journal, find what makes you happy and make sure to remember your needs.

  1. Not every day is a win:
    Finding what works for your child is an ongoing process; you will inevitably try things that work and run into strategies that do not work, and that’s okay. Not every day needs to a win to be considered a success. Focus on the positives, no matter how small, and learn from the trials. There are treatments and therapies that will work for your child; you may have to go through various methods before you find the right one, but it is out there.

  1. Ask for help:
    Parents have a notion that they need to take on the world, especially parents of children with special needs. But guess what – you’re human! If you’re having a hard day, you don’t have to just grin in bear it. If you need to cry and talk about it to a spouse or friend, do it – don’t hold the weight in and keep it all to yourself.

Remember: you will best be able to care for your child if you take care of yourself first. This means asking for help – doctors, partners, friends, neighbors, your child’s school – they are all part of your support system, so ask for help before you feel completely and utterly overwhelmed.

What coping strategies have worked for you? Are you a member of any online support groups or social network sites for parents of children with autism? Are you guilty of becoming a doctor of Google? Share your experiences so we can cultivate a community.