It’s normal for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to have difficulty communicating and forging relationships. Depending on the severity level of ASD, this difficulty can range from not responding to social overtures to severe deficits in communication skills and can result in social anxiety. For parents of children with autism, it can be extremely frustrating to feel as though you can’t make a strong connection with your child.
It can also be tough to watch your other children try to communicate and bond with your child with autism, and you can encounter problems when trying to divide your time evenly between the children. There are many obstacles that families of children with autism must face, but a strong focus on communication and routine can help the whole family become closer.
Focus on Communication
Communication with a child with ASD can be difficult for many reasons. For a start, they might have poor verbal skills, or none at all, and find nonverbal cues confusing. To add to the mix, children with ASD are often simultaneously diagnosed with ADHD, which means it is exceedingly difficult for them to concentrate while someone is speaking to them. Keeping up clear communication is the most important aspect of bonding with a child with autism. Some things you can do to facilitate good communication are:
- Speak directly to the child – not from a distance or while facing the other way, etc.
- Use clear language and avoid figures of speech
- Listen for recurring cues in speech – there might be movie quotes or a particular tone of voice or characterisation, etc. that indicates a mood or feeling
- Explain things with visual examples
- Reinforce their strengths and let them know when they’re doing a good job
- Teach them visual and verbal communication cues – for example, explain what different facial expressions and body language mean
Provide Structure and Routine
Parenting styles affect children differently, and autistic children are not an exception to this. Whatever your parenting style, it’s important to provide structure and routine so that the child can begin to recognise your cues and organise their day in their mind. Unexpected events or situations that might come up can be very confusing for kids with ASD, so try to explain when something outside of their normal routine is going to happen. It can be helpful to make rosters, timetables and schedules together so the child has a reference for what’s happening around them.
Explain ASD to Your Other Children
The more your other children understand about autism spectrum disorder, the better they’ll be able to communicate and bond with their sibling. Start explaining ASD to siblings as early as possible so that they can learn about their brother or sister’s difficulties and find strategies to manage them.
Call Strategic Psychology in Canberra on 02 6262 6157 to speak with a child psychologist today or secure an appointment within seven days.