We all want to help our kids. But what do we do when what they need is more than we can seem to give? Or more than we can seem to even understand? And what about how to help a child with autism? Welcome to just one of the many challenges of raising a child on the autism spectrum. When my son was diagnosed with autism at age 3, my desire to help him led me to make all the wrong decisions.
I made wrong decisions about his diet, about therapy, about schooling and education, and I even made wrong decisions in my parenting approach. Being that I didn’t really understand how to help my child, my decisions for him were based on what “professionals” told me would be best. Well, his autism became more severe over the course of his first year of treatment… and I had become painfully aware that in my effort to help my child, I must have been doing something really, really, wrong. How else could his regression and unbearable behavior be explained?
I wasn’t willing to accept the notion that this was just our destiny as many professionals inferred. The common attitude was that autism gets worse with age, and so that my son’s future was lost and we were doomed as a family. I found this totally unacceptable. So, I made the decision to cut off all ties to the help and advice I was receiving from the mainstream and I resolved to recover my child on my own.
Indeed, it’s a damn good thing I made that call, because if I hadn’t I can tell you that my child wouldn’t have recovered. His trajectory was pretty sad and didn’t begin to look up until I got smart and stopped doing everything they told me to. I discovered that there is a lot of misinformation and advice out there about how to help autistic kids, and after recovering my son, I can tell you that most of it is entirely useless.
What I discovered is that unless you actually understand what you child is going through, you can’t help them. It’s like giving a drowning man a match when what he needs is a life vest, or a lift out of the water. Take it from me, there’s a lot to learn about how to help your child, but the number one thing you’ve got to understand is that you must complete the question. The phrase “How to help your child” is totally incomplete.
Ask the Right Questions about Autism Recovery
How to help them what? Get dressed? Eat their lunch? Say their name??? Come on. Let’s be specific.
How about: How to help your autistic child recover.
That’s the question I began to ask, which lead me to ask more specific questions, and that’s when I started to get real answers. That’s when I began to see my son again, smiling and happy, finally free from the autism that previously consumed him.
Now, this article is in no way going to be able to answer all your questions, but it will provide you with some concrete parameters that will guide you in your quest to learn to ask the right questions.
A wise man once said that a man should be judged not on the quality of his answers, but on the quality of his questions. That saying should become your mantra in your quest to recover your child. Fortunately, there are a few simple “Do’s” and “Do Not’s” that will help you learn to ask the right questions.
Do this to help a child with Autism
Let’s start with the Do’s.
- Do get started on a therapeutic diet, like GAPS, right away.
- Do seek guidance from others who have succeeded in doing what you desire.
- Do believe your child in everything they tell you is real (both verbally or non-verbally).
The GAPS diet is what I used as a foundation for my son’s recovery. I can tell you for certain, that it was the one factor that enabled everything else we did to work. Learn more about the GAPS diet by reading What is the GAPS Diet here.
I made up my mind that I would never again take advice from anyone who hadn’t walked in my shoes and succeeded in what I desired. This one single philosophy will clearly keep your wallet shut and your ears open when you heed the advice.
As far as believing your child is concerned, I learned from Aaron that he had a reason for every single thing he did, and every single thing he didn’t do that kept him on the spectrum. Make up your mind that your child is completely normal, but having abnormal experiences. You must accept your child’s reality before you can begin to help them cope with it.
Do NOT do this…
Now for the Do Not’s.
- Do Not treat your child like a yo-yo.
- Do Not allow your child’s world to revolve around electronic obsessions.
- Do Not fill your child’s day with routines and therapy’s that stress them out.
Hopping from one doctor to the next, from one supplement to the next, and from one therapy to the next is what I mean by treating your child like a yo-yo. Doctor’s supplements and therapies are absolutely necessary, but only in the right order and at the right time. Understand that when you jerk your child around every 4 – 8 weeks trying out the next new thing, you are actually seriously screwing with your child’s development. This will make it harder for them to recover, not easier. So beware.
Electronic devices like computers, lap tops, cell phones, iPads, TV’s, etc. hold our children captive and seemingly pacified for hours on end. For this reason many of us are tempted to just give them what they want. It’s easier than dealing with the tantrums and obsessive stimming, right? Wrong.
If you think tantrums and obsessive stimming are bad now, just wait. Your child’s connection with electronic media drives the wedge between them and you deeper and deeper with every passing hour. Furthermore, autistic kids are subject to experiences extreme sensory processing disorders, and all that electronic stimulation is a huge aggravator.
Big mistakes that sabotage autism recovery
Lastly, I need to tell you that I observe a very large number of parents making the mistake of forcing their kids into special schools and therapies when their child isn’t ready for them. This is a long and complicated argument, but let me leave you with those concrete parameters I promised early on to guide you.
Ask yourself these two questions.
- “Does this routine create stress in my child’s life in any way?” and
- “Am I really seeing significant improvement to warrant continuing”
If you answer “no” to those questions, then you should quit. Quit the school, quit the therapy, quit the daycare, you name it.
Here’s why: Kids can’t recover when they’re stressed or sick. So don’t put them in situations that add to stress or sickness. And if your child isn’t making progress, it’s because you missed asking some very basic questions about their condition, which have led to getting your child involved in activities and routines that they are not yet ready for.
How to help a child with autism
Autism recovery is a slow, methodical process.
Be patient, be inquisitive, be flexible, and honest and you will begin to see the way to recovery.
Got any tips that worked for you that you’d like to add to my “Do’s and Don’ts?” I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.