I couldn’t be more excited about this topic! This episode is going to tackle the how-to of taking care of your child with autism. We spend so much time debating how people get autism, that we place very little attention on the, “Now What?” We want to know how to get our kids to play with us, to communicate, to stop having meltdowns, to play with others and so on. You have to learn the language of autism to be able to speak to it. My mission and goal are to learn the language of autism and to understand my daughter Remy and what she is going through. 

What Helped Us To Start Understanding Our Daughter 

This series is based on a book called, “An Early Start For Your Child With Autism.” I am teaching from this book today. 

We were fortunate because Remy’s Special Education Therapist suggested that we do a parent training. The psychologist that led the training taught us about autism and how to work with Remy. Each week we were taught about a topic and we would bring our child once a week and they would work with us on how to play with them. When I was thinking about this podcast, one of the first things I thought of was that I want to talk about this book and training. I wanted the opportunity to share it with every autism parent so they could learn as well. 

ESDM

It is based on the Early Start Denver Model which is a behavior therapy for children with autism between the ages of 12 and 48 months. It’s based on the methods of applied behavior analysis or ABA. Parents and therapists use play to build positive and fun relationships. Through play and joint activities, the child is encouraged to boost language, social and cognitive skills. These skills that you learn from the book do not take the place of ABA or other therapy, but it is something that you can do along with these programs and can help your child get so much practice adopting these methods. 

Why We Have To Learn The Autism Language 

Most people haven’t grown up watching people parent kids with autism. We try to use the tactics that we use for our neurotypical kids and apply them to kids with autism and we wonder why they are having meltdowns or out of control. The parent is trying to gain control and they don’t understand why their kid isn’t changing and it just makes it worse. It puts the kid with autism farther into their shell and makes it harder for them to learn and trust people. Their growth never takes off. As parents, we need to learn their language so we can foster growth in them. 

One of the goals is to increase your child’s ability to speak and understand language. Some kids will never be able to speak. Don’t be discouraged by that. Just because some children have a lot of language abilities and some don’t, all of these methods help all children. If your child is still nonverbal, all of the tactics are helping your child whether you see them talking or not. 

Why Do Kids With Autism Have a Hard Time Understanding Us? 

Kids are more interested in things instead of people. Remy can stim on something and get so engaged in a thing that she doesn’t even notice anyone else in the room. A lot of kids hear the words you are saying, but they don’t realize that all of those expressions and body language and sounds are messages. They don’t understand that gestures are used to communicate too. When you see something and point it out, that is a gesture, which is a form of communication. 

People can overwhelm our kiddos. There’s so much to process with people so it’s much easier to be alone. This is also why kiddos with autism don’t enjoy back and forth play. They don’t see the fun in playing with someone else because it’s overwhelming and confusing. It also goes along with conversation. It is a back and forth way that people talk. 

Five Steps To Get Your Child To Pay Attention To You

  1. Find out what they are interested in. Observe your child because there are objects that your child would rather play with than pay attention to you. What kind of toys do they like? What do they gravitate to during social play? During caregiving activities? Write a list of what they are interested in. 
  2. Take your place and interrupt their attention. This step is very intentional. You are going to take the things they are doing and join them in that because you want to encourage back and forth play. 
  3. Eliminate the competition. Fade out the object or focus. If you are trying to engage with your child and the tv is on, it is almost impossible for your child to pay attention to you with that distraction. If there are things that are distracting like TV, iPad or phone, turn it off or get rid of the thing that is there. They will have a higher likelihood to pay attention to you. 
  4. Find out your child’s comfort level. Everyone has a distance that they like to stand or sit or be from another person. That is your bubble. When someone crosses it, that makes you uncomfortable. Find out where the distance is with your child because it’s hard to teach someone that’s uncomfortable being around you. 
  5. Follow your child’s lead. A lot of the things that your child is doing aren’t appropriate activities. But you want to meet your child where they are the most comfortable. If they are doing something that they are not supposed to be doing, don’t criticize them, your goal is to just get your child comfortable. You can focus on correcting behaviors later. 

At first, they might not want to play, but eventually and with a lot of repetition, they start seeing you as a playmate and getting excited that you are in their area. This takes practice, but there are so many opportunities to do this. When you have all of those barriers, learning how to communicate is next to impossible, but it is not impossible. There are strategies that you can do to pull it out of them and interrupt them in their world. 

Important Takeaways 

  1. As parents, we need to learn our child’s language so we can foster growth in them. It is important to step into their world to better understand their method of communication. Figure out what your children like to do and what things they enjoy the most. 
  2. To encourage back and forth play, step into whatever they are doing and interrupt them. Most kids with autism do not normally like to play with others, so it’s important to get into their world and break that isolation. 
  3. Remove the competition for your attention. Any distractions that occur during your interaction with them try and remove from the room so that you aren’t competing for their attention. 
  4. Find out what your child’s comfort level is. Do they like it when you sit close to them or far away? It’s important to figure this out so that you don’t make them uncomfortable. You want them to be comfortable so that they are more open to learning. 
  5. Try to interact with them in their world. Follow their lead on what they are playing with and try to enter in and play with them. They will begin to see you as someone who is exciting and will be more likely to pay attention to you.

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