Parenting a Child Who Has Autism Spectrum Disorder

Reviewed Jan 6, 2021

Close

E-mail Article

Complete form to e-mail article…

Required fields are denoted by an asterisk (*) adjacent to the label.

Separate multiple recipients with a comma

Close

Sign-Up For Newsletters

Complete this form to sign-up for newsletters…

Required fields are denoted by an asterisk (*) adjacent to the label.

 

Summary

Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder must:

  • Know their child’s strengths and challenges
  • Be their child’s No. 1 advocate
  • Get support and find resources

You will never forget the day you were told your child has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Your heart probably sank, while you hoped you were just having a bad dream. 

Most parents have to go through an entire grieving cycle when they get bad news. Their child will not be what they expected him to be. She will not grow into the woman they thought she would be.

After a period of shock, sadness, anger, denial and isolation, parents usually come to a healthy acceptance of the reality of the situation. They have a special needs child. It’s time to get to work learning how to raise a child who does not fit the mold used in most parenting guides. Your child is not typical and you will not be a typical parent.

Until you are at peace with that concept, you will not accomplish much that helps your son or daughter. To find that peace, discuss the situation and share your feelings with someone you trust. Spend time healing before you jump, headfirst, into the demanding—and rewarding—job of raising a child with special needs.

You can prepare

Here are a few things you need to learn to do:

  • Take care of the caregiver. You must pace yourself in everything you do. Be sure to leave time for your needs, too. If you are not healthy, you will not be able to help anyone. 
  • Do not ignore others in the family. It takes a lot of time and energy to raise a special needs child and that can take a toll on siblings and parents’ relationships. Do not let autism spectrum disorder consume your life.
  • Sketch out a plan. You don’t need to know what you will do every day, but work out a basic schedule for you and your family to follow for the next few months. Divide responsibilities and talk it over so everyone will know what to expect. You will not have time for misunderstandings or missed appointments when you get busy.
  • Line up resources. Do some digging to find out what your town, school system, state and local affiliates of related organizations have to offer. Read, make calls or write letters. Attend meetings and pick up materials. Go to workshops and seminars designed for parents like you.
  • Get support. Join a support group for parents of children with autism spectrum disorder or with special needs.
  • Learn as much as you can about autism spectrum disorder and how to advocate for your child.

Two important things to do

Every child on the autism spectrum has a different set of strengths and challenges. You will need to work with your pediatrician, school system and your child’s care team to design:

  1. An individualized education plan, or IEP, for school
  2. A parenting plan to complement what is done at school with the love and care you give any child of your own

You know your child better than anyone else. Study him to learn what works and does not work under the normal ups and downs of daily life.

Help your child at home

Here are a few ways you can help your child with autism, at home:

  • Learn how your child communicates best. It may be with pictures, or by pointing and not speaking. Even disruptive behavior is a form of communication. What is the child trying to tell you? 
  • Reduce the chances of overstimulation. Learn what overwhelms her. Lightning? Loud noises? Certain fabrics? Get rid of anything that interferes with her daily life.
  • Try to keep a routine. If you can’t, help the child adjust to change. The most common stressors on a child are those things that change a routine. Someone is late. School is cancelled. A new person is in the house. If you see a change coming, prepare the child in advance. Give him a time and way to adjust to the next step.
  • Make the home environment safe and calm. Your daughter needs a place to go when she is upset. Set aside a room or part of a room where she can go to get herself together. Give her objects that reassure her, such as something made of fleece, stuffed animals or other soft or cuddly things. Reduce noises or install something that produces a noise she likes, such as music, nature sounds or even a light hum. 
  • Honor nonverbal communication if your child does not want to speak. Use pictures, sign language or a computer to communicate, if that works. 
  • Set realistic expectations for yourself and your child. You can reduce your child’s frustration as well as your own if you accept the limitations on both of you. Remember that your kid needs a warm and loving parent, not a superhero. 
  • Autism educator Skott Freedman says parents do best when they have made peace with their situation: “You have lost something,” he tells them. “You’ve lost the idea your child will be a certain way. You’ll do best as a parent when you can say to yourself, ‘some things will change and some won’t and I’m all right with that.’”
  • Work together with your child’s team, and reinforce their successes at home.
  • Help your child build memories. Teach him sequences and connections in daily life, family life and social life. Children with ASD often find it easy to learn about whatever interests them. Relate memories to something he is already interested in, to help him remember.

Most of all, remember this: Your child with autism spectrum disorder deserves the same love and attention you give any of your children. He may not grow up the way you expected, but he will accomplish many things, with your help. His life will not be easy but, over the years, he will make you very proud. But, today, give yourself a pat on the back, as his parent.

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Asha Asher, M.A., pediatric occupational therapist and special education teacher, Sycamore Community Schools, Cincinnati, OH; Leandra N. Berry, Ph.D., pediatric neuropsychologist, Autism Center, Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston, TX; Skott Freedman, Ph.D., child language development and disorders specialist, Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY; Areva Martin, Esq., attorney, advocate for children with autism, and author of The Everyday Advocate: How to Stand Up for Your Autistic Child, Los Angeles, CA

Summary

Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder must:

  • Know their child’s strengths and challenges
  • Be their child’s No. 1 advocate
  • Get support and find resources

You will never forget the day you were told your child has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Your heart probably sank, while you hoped you were just having a bad dream. 

Most parents have to go through an entire grieving cycle when they get bad news. Their child will not be what they expected him to be. She will not grow into the woman they thought she would be.

After a period of shock, sadness, anger, denial and isolation, parents usually come to a healthy acceptance of the reality of the situation. They have a special needs child. It’s time to get to work learning how to raise a child who does not fit the mold used in most parenting guides. Your child is not typical and you will not be a typical parent.

Until you are at peace with that concept, you will not accomplish much that helps your son or daughter. To find that peace, discuss the situation and share your feelings with someone you trust. Spend time healing before you jump, headfirst, into the demanding—and rewarding—job of raising a child with special needs.

You can prepare

Here are a few things you need to learn to do:

  • Take care of the caregiver. You must pace yourself in everything you do. Be sure to leave time for your needs, too. If you are not healthy, you will not be able to help anyone. 
  • Do not ignore others in the family. It takes a lot of time and energy to raise a special needs child and that can take a toll on siblings and parents’ relationships. Do not let autism spectrum disorder consume your life.
  • Sketch out a plan. You don’t need to know what you will do every day, but work out a basic schedule for you and your family to follow for the next few months. Divide responsibilities and talk it over so everyone will know what to expect. You will not have time for misunderstandings or missed appointments when you get busy.
  • Line up resources. Do some digging to find out what your town, school system, state and local affiliates of related organizations have to offer. Read, make calls or write letters. Attend meetings and pick up materials. Go to workshops and seminars designed for parents like you.
  • Get support. Join a support group for parents of children with autism spectrum disorder or with special needs.
  • Learn as much as you can about autism spectrum disorder and how to advocate for your child.

Two important things to do

Every child on the autism spectrum has a different set of strengths and challenges. You will need to work with your pediatrician, school system and your child’s care team to design:

  1. An individualized education plan, or IEP, for school
  2. A parenting plan to complement what is done at school with the love and care you give any child of your own

You know your child better than anyone else. Study him to learn what works and does not work under the normal ups and downs of daily life.

Help your child at home

Here are a few ways you can help your child with autism, at home:

  • Learn how your child communicates best. It may be with pictures, or by pointing and not speaking. Even disruptive behavior is a form of communication. What is the child trying to tell you? 
  • Reduce the chances of overstimulation. Learn what overwhelms her. Lightning? Loud noises? Certain fabrics? Get rid of anything that interferes with her daily life.
  • Try to keep a routine. If you can’t, help the child adjust to change. The most common stressors on a child are those things that change a routine. Someone is late. School is cancelled. A new person is in the house. If you see a change coming, prepare the child in advance. Give him a time and way to adjust to the next step.
  • Make the home environment safe and calm. Your daughter needs a place to go when she is upset. Set aside a room or part of a room where she can go to get herself together. Give her objects that reassure her, such as something made of fleece, stuffed animals or other soft or cuddly things. Reduce noises or install something that produces a noise she likes, such as music, nature sounds or even a light hum. 
  • Honor nonverbal communication if your child does not want to speak. Use pictures, sign language or a computer to communicate, if that works. 
  • Set realistic expectations for yourself and your child. You can reduce your child’s frustration as well as your own if you accept the limitations on both of you. Remember that your kid needs a warm and loving parent, not a superhero. 
  • Autism educator Skott Freedman says parents do best when they have made peace with their situation: “You have lost something,” he tells them. “You’ve lost the idea your child will be a certain way. You’ll do best as a parent when you can say to yourself, ‘some things will change and some won’t and I’m all right with that.’”
  • Work together with your child’s team, and reinforce their successes at home.
  • Help your child build memories. Teach him sequences and connections in daily life, family life and social life. Children with ASD often find it easy to learn about whatever interests them. Relate memories to something he is already interested in, to help him remember.

Most of all, remember this: Your child with autism spectrum disorder deserves the same love and attention you give any of your children. He may not grow up the way you expected, but he will accomplish many things, with your help. His life will not be easy but, over the years, he will make you very proud. But, today, give yourself a pat on the back, as his parent.

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Asha Asher, M.A., pediatric occupational therapist and special education teacher, Sycamore Community Schools, Cincinnati, OH; Leandra N. Berry, Ph.D., pediatric neuropsychologist, Autism Center, Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston, TX; Skott Freedman, Ph.D., child language development and disorders specialist, Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY; Areva Martin, Esq., attorney, advocate for children with autism, and author of The Everyday Advocate: How to Stand Up for Your Autistic Child, Los Angeles, CA

Summary

Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder must:

  • Know their child’s strengths and challenges
  • Be their child’s No. 1 advocate
  • Get support and find resources

You will never forget the day you were told your child has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Your heart probably sank, while you hoped you were just having a bad dream. 

Most parents have to go through an entire grieving cycle when they get bad news. Their child will not be what they expected him to be. She will not grow into the woman they thought she would be.

After a period of shock, sadness, anger, denial and isolation, parents usually come to a healthy acceptance of the reality of the situation. They have a special needs child. It’s time to get to work learning how to raise a child who does not fit the mold used in most parenting guides. Your child is not typical and you will not be a typical parent.

Until you are at peace with that concept, you will not accomplish much that helps your son or daughter. To find that peace, discuss the situation and share your feelings with someone you trust. Spend time healing before you jump, headfirst, into the demanding—and rewarding—job of raising a child with special needs.

You can prepare

Here are a few things you need to learn to do:

  • Take care of the caregiver. You must pace yourself in everything you do. Be sure to leave time for your needs, too. If you are not healthy, you will not be able to help anyone. 
  • Do not ignore others in the family. It takes a lot of time and energy to raise a special needs child and that can take a toll on siblings and parents’ relationships. Do not let autism spectrum disorder consume your life.
  • Sketch out a plan. You don’t need to know what you will do every day, but work out a basic schedule for you and your family to follow for the next few months. Divide responsibilities and talk it over so everyone will know what to expect. You will not have time for misunderstandings or missed appointments when you get busy.
  • Line up resources. Do some digging to find out what your town, school system, state and local affiliates of related organizations have to offer. Read, make calls or write letters. Attend meetings and pick up materials. Go to workshops and seminars designed for parents like you.
  • Get support. Join a support group for parents of children with autism spectrum disorder or with special needs.
  • Learn as much as you can about autism spectrum disorder and how to advocate for your child.

Two important things to do

Every child on the autism spectrum has a different set of strengths and challenges. You will need to work with your pediatrician, school system and your child’s care team to design:

  1. An individualized education plan, or IEP, for school
  2. A parenting plan to complement what is done at school with the love and care you give any child of your own

You know your child better than anyone else. Study him to learn what works and does not work under the normal ups and downs of daily life.

Help your child at home

Here are a few ways you can help your child with autism, at home:

  • Learn how your child communicates best. It may be with pictures, or by pointing and not speaking. Even disruptive behavior is a form of communication. What is the child trying to tell you? 
  • Reduce the chances of overstimulation. Learn what overwhelms her. Lightning? Loud noises? Certain fabrics? Get rid of anything that interferes with her daily life.
  • Try to keep a routine. If you can’t, help the child adjust to change. The most common stressors on a child are those things that change a routine. Someone is late. School is cancelled. A new person is in the house. If you see a change coming, prepare the child in advance. Give him a time and way to adjust to the next step.
  • Make the home environment safe and calm. Your daughter needs a place to go when she is upset. Set aside a room or part of a room where she can go to get herself together. Give her objects that reassure her, such as something made of fleece, stuffed animals or other soft or cuddly things. Reduce noises or install something that produces a noise she likes, such as music, nature sounds or even a light hum. 
  • Honor nonverbal communication if your child does not want to speak. Use pictures, sign language or a computer to communicate, if that works. 
  • Set realistic expectations for yourself and your child. You can reduce your child’s frustration as well as your own if you accept the limitations on both of you. Remember that your kid needs a warm and loving parent, not a superhero. 
  • Autism educator Skott Freedman says parents do best when they have made peace with their situation: “You have lost something,” he tells them. “You’ve lost the idea your child will be a certain way. You’ll do best as a parent when you can say to yourself, ‘some things will change and some won’t and I’m all right with that.’”
  • Work together with your child’s team, and reinforce their successes at home.
  • Help your child build memories. Teach him sequences and connections in daily life, family life and social life. Children with ASD often find it easy to learn about whatever interests them. Relate memories to something he is already interested in, to help him remember.

Most of all, remember this: Your child with autism spectrum disorder deserves the same love and attention you give any of your children. He may not grow up the way you expected, but he will accomplish many things, with your help. His life will not be easy but, over the years, he will make you very proud. But, today, give yourself a pat on the back, as his parent.

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Asha Asher, M.A., pediatric occupational therapist and special education teacher, Sycamore Community Schools, Cincinnati, OH; Leandra N. Berry, Ph.D., pediatric neuropsychologist, Autism Center, Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston, TX; Skott Freedman, Ph.D., child language development and disorders specialist, Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY; Areva Martin, Esq., attorney, advocate for children with autism, and author of The Everyday Advocate: How to Stand Up for Your Autistic Child, Los Angeles, CA

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, assessments, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological, or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2019 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

Close

  • Useful Tools

    Select a tool below

© 2021 Beacon Health Options, Inc.