Recently a parent asked me:
What are the little things I can do to better help my son on the spectrum through his day?
Processing time. When I was a kid, I needed more time to respond than people wanted to give me. I still do. My best advice would be to give a good amount of time (for me, I need about 30 seconds) for a response before repeating, saying or showing anything else (especially verbal information). This always helps gives my brain the time it needs to process new information.
Detective work. Behaviors always happen for a reason. They are a way of communicating! In an analytical way, try and think about why your child is doing something. Look for signs, clues, and triggers. It may be something you did not expect. And it could be a behavior that is delayed, from something that happened much earlier. Sometimes, help can be something as simple as turning the lights down, because the bright light may be making everything else more difficult.
Boundaries and rules. Clear, concrete boundaries really helped me as a kid, so I could better navigate through my day without having to process unnecessary information. Here are a few examples of things your child might wonder that rules/guidelines/boundaries can help with:
Who is taking me to school?
I am allowed to jump (insert stim of choice here!) at home, at grocery store, in a museum, on the bus…?
When can I eat?
How much time do I have to play my video game?
Will my parents stop me in the middle of my fun activity? How do I say ‘I am almost done’ in a way we both understand?
When does “no” REALLY mean “no”?
How do I know when a schedule change won’t change again?
Flourishing. Within boundaries and rules, my mom always found a way for my personality to come through. She made sure I had some freedom and choices.
Whenever you can, help your child find activities, tasks, and objects to bring out the qualities that make them want to engage and interact with the world. Having these things will help them learn and figure out what they want in life. I found my love for jellyfish, art and photography. Having access to and creating these things lets me express who I am which is so important.
I have also found all of these things to be successful with the other autistic individuals, that I have worked with personally.
Anabelle Listic is a 27 year-old artist living is Seattle and is a film and digital photographer. Anabelle has autism and is profoundly visual. She is passionate about her art and about mentoring parents and kids living life on the autism spectrum. Find more of Anabelle’s work and insight by following her Blog, Twitter and Facebook.