Parents: Understand Your Child With Autism

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900 600 Paul Louden

Often, I’m asked if I have any advice for parents of children with autism. Although there is not a “one size fits all” answer to this question, I typically start with something very simple. Parents should work to spend as much time as they can listening to their children and learning about them.


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 someone with autism 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 talk about why you do the things you do. Clear explanation is key!


For example, why do you clean when you do, why you do anything when you do it, why do you keep the schedule you do. But I urge parents to also pay attention to why their child does what they do. This comes with learning and listening, as mentioned above.


Watch what they do, when they do it, and watch what their interests are. And try, if you can, if they’re verbal, to engage in dialogue about why. And if they’re not verbal, try to think of as many reasons as possible as to why this might be. Think beyond just why you would do it, and think about reasons why someone with autism might behave the way they do an do things a certain way. Put yourself in their shoes and show some empathy, because the biggest tool you have for getting along is understanding, not just knowing.


A true, in-depth understanding of why a person on the spectrum and a person not on the spectrum each do different things is a major key in fostering quality relationships — specifically for parents who have difficulties understanding their children who have autism.


If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments section of the post.


I hope you all enjoy!

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  • Susan Cottingham

    I can explain all day long why I am unable to find something that has been misplaced, or why my child must wait until her Birthday and she still does not comprehend. She continues to ask the same questions repeatedly for days and weeks on end until the item is found. She also has to be reminded to do things repeatedly, such as brush her teeth, brush her hair, or take a bath or anything that has to do with personal hygiene. She is 18 and I do not know how to get her to do things for herself and I end up doing them for her so that I can be sure that it is done thoroughly. She will ask for something to eat. I will fix it for her and she retreats to her room and her food will be cold before she comes to get it. She does not ever want to go anywhere, she did not even like Disney World and repeatedly asked to go home every day that we were there. All that she wants to do is sit in her room with her TV and her Ipad both playing at the same time. She has tons of videos, books, and toys, but continually asks for a new toy or video, even though she just got something new that she has asked for. What can I do? Where do I go for help. She has had early intervention, and ABA therapy. The ABA therapy didn’t seem to help her very much as she did not show much improvement. What therapy can you recommend? Thank you so much for trying to help us understand people with Autism.

  • Paul Louden

    ABA can be valuable for developing the technical ability to do specific things, but can run into challenges when attempting to address the more subtle challenges of autism and motivation. One problem with autism is that through life you learn to lose confidence in yourself. ABA can even reinforce this. You’re taught that you don’t know how to do things and need others to explain them to you. Even when you have the skills, you don’t have the confidence to do it yourself, and you’re afraid of the results of failing. It can result in a very reactive life, only doing things in response to specific other things. Even when told to do it, the internal anxiety can overwhelm you and make it hard to start or do the things. You may want to look into therapies with a developmental focus – ones focused more on a slow approach to internal growth rather than skills focus. I hesitate to recommend individual therapies as I don’t have the time to investigate all of the ones out there in-depth, and I’m not a doctor and can only gauge them loosely. It’s important to work on natural confidence growth. When you succeed at something because someone else told you to do it, and you doubted your ability to do it, that can result in confidence growth, but it can also result in confidence loss: “I can’t even judge whether or not I can do it, I have to depend on someone else for that.” Look for opportunities to create situations where she can choose to act, and succeed. Start in areas she’s interested in, don’t worry too much about the behaviours you want to encourage yet. Just getting her to do things on her own volition, and either succeed, or learn from the failures (and in particular, learn that failures are okay) can help with the sort of growth it sounds like you want, I think.

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