In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that an estimated 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with autism. Experts say that the increase in number for diagnosis is due to the public’s growing awareness about advanced autism as well as changes in the diagnosis criteria. With the rise in those diagnosed, chances are, you might know a loved one who also has autism. How do you proceed in taking care of their mental health? When can you handle it by yourself and when should you reach out to a professional? Here are some tips to aid you.
You Cannot Pour From an Empty Cup
Before giving aid to someone with autism, the first step is caring for a caregiver. People often fail with estimating the amount of energy they actually have along with their emotional attitudes and coping skills. They might be very busy to meet the needs of their loved one that they don’t give themselves the opportunity to relax or simply think. They might wait until they are extremely stressed out or exhausted that they can barely function and therefore cannot give the optimal aid. You have to avoid burn out to be of use to anyone.
Because each person is unique, there is no “one rule fits all” to coping. Acknowledging that you also need to take care of yourself before taking care of your loved one will help you stay prepared for all of the upcoming challenges that will come your way. After all, looking at autism will not only change your perception of your loved one, but will also change how you view the world. Always practice an open mind and do honest communication with your family if you also need their attention and support. Find a schedule to unwind for even a few minutes a day before trying to help your loved one. Your body will thank you for it.
Consider Being Part of a Support Group
No man is an island. For many parents, a support group provides hope, encouragement and comfort. Hearing stories and tips from others who share similar experiences will help you learn how to better take care of a loved one with autism. This community is crucial to help you feel more at ease that aside from therapy, there are also other ways to help your loved one that has been recommended by your support group.
You may also try joining recreational groups for autism together with your loved one. This will help them socialize and hopefully form a bond with others. Support groups can be found online. You may try one to see if the group fits your needs. Feel change groups if necessary until you find one that suits you perfectly.
Become an Expert on Your Loved One
Get to know the person with autism as much as you can by being mindful about what changes their emotions. What triggers them? What soothes them? What elicits a positive response? Pay special attention if someone is moving more than usual. Fidgeting usually happens when someone is experiencing too many external stimuli. It’s not bad or good, it just is. Ask them if they need anything. You can also turn down the music or dim the lights to lessen any stimuli.
If possible, keep a notebook so you can also relay the information to other people who interact with him/her. Once you understand what affects the mood of your loved one, you will be better at troubleshooting situations and modifying environments that might cause difficulty.
Not everyone has rich knowledge about what autism is. The media’s portrayal can only do so much. Champion the person or cause by actively advocating autism and how they can help to your peers. By doing so, you are helping them open more doors to get the proper support that they need. The added awareness might possibly cause positive adjustments in the workplace, at school or the local community. It doesn’t hurt to try, and only good things can come out from it so you might as well try.
Stick to a Schedule
Those with ASD tend to do better if they have a schedule or a routine. Assist them in creating a regular schedule for meals, bedtime, exercise, and other hobbies for your loved one. Chances are, there will eventually be an unavoidable disruption in the schedule. If this can be expected, try to inform your loved one in advance to help set expectations. They will then be able to have a less intense reaction should things not go according to the planned schedule.
Provide Structure and Safety
People with autism find it challenging to apply what they have learned in one environment to the next. An example of this is the language used at work and at home. You will need to create a seamless transition from different environments to aid them in applying what they learned to any location. Find out what his/her therapist is doing and continue their techniques at home. If possible, have the therapy sessions in more than one environment in order to encourage your loved one to transfer his/her learning from one place to the other. This will help them feel safer.
Celebrate All Types of Victories
When someone is diagnosed as different, it is easy to focus on mistakTes or things that are missed. Big or small, celebrate the success of your loved one. Acknowledge these achievements as this will help boost the mood of your loved one as well. However, do note that your tone should also be as genuine and natural as possible.
Don’t Give Up on Them
It is impossible to predict the course of the life of anyone, whether you are neurotypical or have autism. With this fact, you can’t jump to conclusions about how their future will be. Keep in mind that autism is not their whole identity. It is just part of the bigger picture. As with all humans, they have the rest of their lives to develop to their full potential and you are right by their side. Struggles are expected in this journey, but so is happiness. Never give up on someone with autism. Help them reach the skies!