When you have a child with autism, the differences in their needs – at home, at school, and at play – may seem overwhelming. However, many parents of children with autism have found that by becoming an advocate, they can help their child succeed in those arenas. They also find their advocacy brings them a more complete understanding of and a closer relationship with their child. Here are tips for being an advocate for your child with autism.
1. Autistic Children Perceive Reality Differently
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. Many autistic people display social difficulties and difficulty communicating. They may also show repetitive behaviors or phrases and have difficulty learning or paying attention.
2. Autistic Behavior Can Vary Greatly
Autism is referred to as a spectrum because autistic people display a wide range of symptoms. According to The College of St. Scholastica, 80% of autistic children will process sensory input either more or less intensely than non-autistic children. Some autistic children are unable to speak and may communicate with language boards or gestures. Other autistic individuals may be very intelligent yet be unable to recognize social cues.
3. Discover the Wonder of Your Child
The best gift you can give your child is to view them as wonderful. Your child is a unique person whose self-worth can best be fortified with acceptance and love. Don’t compare them to anyone else – even with other autistic children. When you allow them to be themselves, you give them the best chance to learn to confidently present themselves to the world!
4. Socialization Should Start Early
Whatever your kid’s unique characteristics may be, your hope will likely be for them to function as well as they are able when they reach adulthood. To do this, it’s beneficial for them to attend a preschool program. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, half of the three and four-year-olds in 2021 were enrolled in preschool. In the same year, more than 85% of five-year-olds were also in preschool – making those ages ideal for starting your child in preschool. Choose a program that will celebrate your child and provide the necessary accommodation.
5. Care For Their Physical Health
Regardless of the challenges your autistic child presents, it’s crucial to guard their health in the same way you do with your other children. Search for a doctor and dentist who has experience with a variety of patients, since they are likely to need extra patience with appointments. They may also need an orthodontist because between 25% and 50% of all kids will someday wear braces.
6. Advocate for Your Child With Autism in School
By the time your child reaches elementary school, you’ll have a great deal of information to share with their educational team. When children with developmental disabilities attend public schools, the school composes an IEP (Individualized Education Program) to outline the child’s educational strengths and weaknesses. The Program will be created by the school counselor, the child’s teacher, and any resource workers involved with your child. Despite all those people, you are the most important person on your child’s educational team.
7. Become Your Child’s Voice in Their IEP
When attending an IEP conference or talking with your child’s teacher, continue to speak for your child. The IEP can enable your child’s progress or it can prevent them from growing. You’ll be your child’s consistent witness as they progress through school. If the team sees things differently than you do, speak up for the wonders you’ve discovered in your child.
Although caring for your autistic child will be challenging, the joys of seeing their progress will make up for it. Remember to always stand up for them with pride, and to let the world know that autistic people aren’t damaged or broken. When you, as a parent show empowering love for your child to the world, you inspire acceptance one child at a time.
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