My Advice for Parents of Autistic Children

Parent talking to child
900 600 Paul Louden

Parenting is hard. I, personally, do not have experience parenting. But I know how much effort it takes and the work that goes in to raising a child. It’s a ton. The USDA, according to a new study, projects that in 2016 a middle class, married couple will spend about $250,000 to raise a child from birth to age 17. These figures don’t include college-related costs. But still … wow.


On top of the financials involved, raising a child through the ups and downs of just being a kid seems extremely, extremely challenging. And that got me thinking … “what advice would I give my parents, if I knew they’d be raising another autistic child?”


Explain the Why


Spend as much time as you can listening and learning. One thing that often helps people on the autism spectrum is being able to answer the question “why?”


Any time you do something, be ready for an autistic child to say, “why did you do that?” And if you want them to develop the same habits as you, or the same values as you, be ready to actually talk about why you do things. The understanding of ‘why’, is so important to autistic children. I can’t stress that enough. Why do you clean when you do? Why do you have the schedule that you have? Why do you watch TV when you do?


Watch and Observe


Watching and taking notes on actions can be a huge help. Try to pay attention to why your child does things in certain environments. Try to also pay attention to which environments bother your child, and in which environments he or she flourishes.


Watch what they do for fun, find out what their interests are, and try to, if you can, (if they’re verbal) engage in dialogue about why they like and dislike certain things.


Understanding through Communication


You may listen, observe, take notes and still feel disconnected as a parent to an autistic child. But keep in mind, the biggest tool you have for getting along with your child is your understanding and empathy. It takes more than just knowing what they like and observing them in certain social environments. You must strive to communicate, which will help you truly understand the deep-rooted causes for actions.


Overall, parenting is hard. I couldn’t imagine the difficulties that came with being my parent. But if you truly try to explain the reasoning for your own actions, while trying to observe, listen and communicate with your autistic child, then I know things will start to get easier.


Understanding is the key.


Thanks again for reading. Please feel free to post any questions in the comments section below.

  • Kimet

    Hi paul,
    Thank you for your insight,into the thought process of a child. My Wonderful grandson (age 3) is non-verbal, yet he let’s you know what he wants. He us so intelligent and has a smile that makes me happy.
    I appreciate your prospective.
    Take care,

  • Ileana

    Hi Pail. My son is 23, and we go through many meltdowns, frustrations. Depressions….he self injure….have you gone through bad meltdowns..what can I do at that moment to help him,?…..

  • Mike

    Hi Paul. Thats just the right key to reach my 6 year old son. If i’m able to stay in lovely, listening, understanding touch he can manage his difficult situations. But if there’s no time for listening and empathy, just time for words like “it is so” or “go and get your shoes” it will all go bad and often ending in a meltdown caused by very little things. How can we reach the people at school or kindergarden if they do not open their minds for the needs? its difficult to speak to them if they want to teach us, think we’re wrong in raising our child like this or just have no time for individual empathy treating.

  • Paul Louden

    It’s difficult right now because so often autism is treated as solely a behavioral condition. That leads to the idea that “changing the behavior” fixes it, which isn’t the case. In my experience, telling stories has always been the best way I’ve been able to reach people. Giving them, where I can, real examples of how things happened, and how thinks worked or didn’t work. While the research is starting to show autism is developmental, and that a more well-rounded approach can lead to more significant outcomes, many people are more influenced by personal experience than by research. So share anecdotes, stories about your child and the successes you’ve had with him. Hopefully that will help them see, at least in the case of your child, where the path to success is.

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