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4 Essential Tips for Parents of Children on the Autism Spectrum

Parenting is rarely easy and parents of children on the autism spectrum face a whole different set of challenges.

Your child’s specific needs depend on her age and where she lies on the spectrum, of course–but there are a few essential tips from which all families raising children with ASD can benefit.

1. Recognize Anxiety – One study found that 70% of children with autism are also diagnosed with an additional disorder, most commonly a form of anxiety. There’s a complicated relationship between ASD behaviors and anxiety symptoms. Educating yourself on this link will help you differentiate signs of anxiety from normal behavior. Use this knowledge to react to her behaviors in the most helpful way possible–or even to know whether or not you should seek additional treatment.  

2. Emphasize Nutrition – Young children are notorious for being picky eaters and children on the autism spectrum are no exception. Since a healthy diet aids in cognitive abilities such as learning and information processing, practicing proper nutrition is one of the best ways to promote your child’s brain health. Involve your child in the meal selection process and teach her about nutrition along the way. Take her grocery shopping, let her pick fresh foods, and teach her how that particular type of food helps keep her body and brain healthy.

 3. Build Routine – Often children with autism can feel overwhelmed at the thought of organizing the multitude of sensory information available to them at any given time: new sights, smells, people, and places can be a lot to handle all at once. Building a solid routine your child can count on will keep him focused on the task at hand. Predictability and familiarity help give your child a comfortable place to grow–a place where he knows he’ll be safe, that he’ll get to do things he loves regularly, and that you’ll be right there with him when he needs you.

4. Teach Water Safety – Whether you’re taking him to aquatic therapy classes or simply making a family trip to the pool, teach your child about water safety before you ever step foot around a body of water together. Let him know that the number one rule for being around water is that he should never approach it without an adult’s supervision. Teach him about the dangers of water and talk about using safety equipment like goggles and floaties.

There’s a lot to learn about being a parent of a child with autism, but these four tips will help keep you in the right mindset. Teaching your child about safety and life is a long-term journey that’s best taken together.

Angela Tollersons is a former business owner turned full-time mom. The mother of a son on the autism spectrum, she truly believes that every family is special in their own way. She started ForFamilyHealth.net with her husband to provide parents a resource for information, ideas, and inspiration on giving children of all abilities healthy and happy lives. Angela lives in the ’burbs of North Carolina and is an active member of PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center and Parents Helping Parents.

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