Practical tips for parents with children with Autism
Progress Not Perfection
We understand that as parents/caregivers you have many things on your plate in addition to wanting your child to have the highest quality of life as possible
It is better to set aside 5 minutes (or even shorter) to give your 100% and effort with practicing new skills with your child, than being inconsistently inconsistent all day long
Once 5 minutes becomes manageable and reasonable, then you can increase your duration
We always want to set your child up for success and take baby steps for those small wins that turn into big wins, the same applies for you! Small baby steps of making progress is much more realistic than striving for constant perfection
We are all creatures of habits--- if we like to admit or not!
Routines, whether we like them or don’t, are such a beneficial tool to develop some structure and stability in your home
Again, start small! Consistency with doing simple task before access to a preferred toy (or electronic), putting pyjamas on then allowing free time play before starting the bedtime routine, eliminating grazing and having semi-structured meal/snack times at the table, etc.
With practice with establishing routine, develops predictability for your child. Often, without predictability or choice you and your child may feel lost, floundering or unsure of the expectation
We are all human! Trying to completely change and flip a schedule is very ambitus and may not lead to a lasting impact or sustainability; Subtle, small changes add up overtime to long lasting sustainable changes in you and your child’s behaviour
First, then statement AKA Grandma’s Law
“First_______, then ________” will become a very familiar phrase that you will be catching yourself saying without even realizing it
What is so good about this statement? It allows a clear and predictable statement of what needs to be done (often less preferable task) before they get access to something more desired (high preferable task)
It also allows you to make a statement/instruction and follow through with it! This is so important with teaching your child when you set an expectation, then need to follow through with it
First put your shoes on then we can go to the park
First hang your jacket up then you can have a snack
First put on your pjs then I will read you a bedtime story
First sit down then I will turn the tv on
You can always prompt or help your child to keep them successful initially as well as pick things as the “first…” that is already a mastered skill they reliability do. Once they understand the new contingencies, you can then try it with other situations to get them to do a less preferred task
Follow through with instructions and ensure your child is attending before asking!
It is human to ask a lot of questions and statements to one another. It is way that we interact with one another, gather more information, show we care and are interested. However, in a behavioural perspective, when we ask our child a bunch of questions, we are actually placing multiple demands on the child.
What is the harm in this? Well, it may or may not be a big deal for all children. However, for those children who answer questions on an inconsistent basis, you may want to take a closer look. When you call their name, does it take the 4th time for them to look at you or respond? Do they ignore you to a point you just end up doing the task or giving up on the question?
If that is the case, you may have shaped a parent-child interaction in which you both reinforce one another’s behaviour. You may be inadvertently teaching them “when my parent calls my name, they may not actually come get me for 10 more minutes then get me to do the task” or “If I keep ignoring my parent, they may just do the task for me or just stop persisting”; On the flip side, when we ask a question or call their name, we may persist, then the child’s behaviour teaches us that we need to keep asking and either we become frustrated and give up, get face to face to get their attention or forget about the task.
What to try instead?
1) Before you ask a question, stop and see if your child is engaged with something. If they are, tap their shoulder or pause the video so they look at you. May seem unnecessary but again if you ask them a question and they aren’t attending you are just talking into space!
2) Now they are attending, ask the question
3) If they need help or clarification, prompt them for the correct answer- if they are not responding try out our new favourite phrase “first__, then,___” (first show me your day planner then you can keep playing on the iPad)
4) Praise! Tell them “thanks for answering quick” or “thanks for letting me know! Keep playing your game”. This may seem unnecessary but you are showing the child if they ask quickly they can resume back to their activity as well as get social praise for answering appropriate