Autistic children may have a hard time adapting what they have learned in one setting (such as the therapist’s office or school) to others, including the home. For example, your child may use sign language at school to communicate, but never think to do so at home. Creating consistency in your child’s environment is the best way to reinforce learning. Find out what your child’s therapists are doing and continue their techniques at home. It’s also important to be consistent in the way you interact with your child and deal with challenging behaviors.
Stick to a Schedule
Autistic kids tend to do best when they have a highly structured schedule or routine. Again, this goes back to the consistency they both need and crave. Set up a schedule for your child, with regular times for meals, therapy, school, and bedtime. Try to keep disruptions to this routine to a minimum. If there is an unavoidable schedule change, prepare your child for it in advance.
Reward Good Behavior
Positive reinforcement can go a long way with autistic children, so make an effort to “catch them doing something good.” Praise them when they act appropriately or learn a new skill, being very specific about what behavior they’re being praised for. Also look for other ways to reward them for good behavior, such as giving them a sticker or letting them play with a favorite toy.
Carve out a private space in your home where your child can relax, feel secure, and be safe. This will involve organizing and setting boundaries in ways your child can understand. Visual cues can be helpful (colored tape marking areas that are off-limits, labeling items in the house with pictures). You may also need to safety proof the house, particularly if your child is prone to tantrums or other self-injurious behaviors.
Make Time for Fun
A child coping with autism is still a kid. For both autistic children and their parents, there needs to be more to life than therapy. Find ways to play and have fun together. Don’t obsess over whether or not these activities are therapeutic or educational. The important thing is to enjoy your child’s company!