Recently I had the good fortune to be contacted by a freelance producer for the Fox and ABC news affiliate in the Johnstown/Altoona/State College PA region to speak about tips for parents whose children have been diagnosed with autism. The producer saw my blog post on the Autism Speaks website and thought it would be relevant for Autism Awareness month and helpful to parents as well. As I reread what I wrote I felt the post had held up to the test of time, so I’m reprinting the highlights here. Hope this helps somebody!
1) No matter how exhausted you are, get your child out in the community. It was a struggle with us with Justin, but getting him out so he could have a repertoire of leisure activities was crucial to his happiness and to our family’s. It set him up for a lifetime of being able to try different things, which will set him in good stead when I’m no longer here to take him places. Yes, I’m always planning.
2) If you haven’t already done so, join a parent group and/or your school district’s special education PTA. You will make invaluable connections at both. Try to find parents of kids with your kid’s level of autism as you’re making friends. These people will be a wealth of information for you and a lifeline.
3) When your child’s Early Intervention or school program is set tackle the big issues one at a time- perhaps it’s sleeping, or eating, or potty training. If your child is in a private school there may be a BCBA on staff who can help you. If not and you can afford it, consider hiring a BCBA from an agency. Pick an issue and prioritize.
4) Educate your friends and family as to what’s going on in your household. Perhaps you’ve been too tired up to this point to talk to people not in the “tribe” about what raising an autistic child is really like. It’s time to tell them and ask for the support you need, even if it’s just an ear to listen. My husband and I kept too much to ourselves, and if I could go back in time I’d be more open with everyone in our lives.
5) I can’t stress this one enough- take care of yourself, not just your kid. Autism is a marathon, not a sprint. You owe it to yourself and your child to be whole, healthy, and happy. Do whatever it takes to get there.
Hope these tips help!
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