Credit: Jenny Wise, Freelance Writer
Date: March 18, 2019
We want only the best for our children, but if they have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), we have to look beyond the basics. There are environmental, financial, and quality-of-life matters that need to be considered. It can seem overwhelming, but here are some areas to explore.
Know the Symptoms
If you have concerns that your child has autism, it’s essential that you know the signs. This can guide your parenting and lessen the strain faced by your baby even as they take their first steps. While symptoms vary, you may notice that they are unresponsive to being called by name, do not engage in baby talk, or have delayed emotional responses. They may also show little to no interest in their surroundings or not develop expected language skills. These are all indicators of autism, but awareness lets you take the necessary steps forward.
Anticipate Their Needs
Any child with a disability will face unique challenges, but they can thrive with a strategy tailored to their needs. Autistic children can benefit from early intervention through therapy, but what type you choose might depend on medical advice from a pediatrician. However, you may find that some sort of animal therapy might be advantageous, and this could involve bringing in a pet at an early stage. A furry companion, such as a dog or guinea pig, could relieve stress, raise happiness, and be an opportunity for socialization. Of course, pets must be trained to be a safe and understanding friend, yet they may be an invaluable asset for an ASD family.
Adapting the Home
A safe home is a happy home, but autism requires more nuanced changes compared to other conditions. Of course, safety is paramount, and adjustments may be necessary, like securing hazardous things in child-proof storage or using signs to protect little ones from danger. Beyond safety, create an environment that is sensorially stimulating (without being overwhelming) to further support your spectrum child from an early age. For instance, color can impact mood, so look to soothing hues for the bedroom and experiment as they grow up. Likewise, try to minimize smells, unpleasant noises, and bright lighting throughout the home. While you cannot entirely remove potential triggers, you can start now to build happy surroundings.
Prepare Your Finances
It’s only natural to want to focus on the practical and joyous aspects of parenting, from stocking up diapers to taking pictures of every cute thing. Yet, financial planning is essential from the get-go to ensure your baby’s welfare over the long-term should the worst happen. With that in mind, you should prepare wills, life insurance, and trusts, and possibly designate someone as a guardian to assume care responsibilities. As well, investigate burial insurance since it can cover funeral costs and any debt accrued from medical treatment. However, avoid putting anything in your child’s name, as this could interfere with their eligibility for support services like Medicaid. This is a difficult subject to explore, but it can safeguard your little one’s future.
Involve Loved Ones
We are not only responsible for our children but also ourselves. Being a parent can be exhausting — whatever the circumstances — and without respite, you can experience a downturn in your emotional and mental well-being. Be honest with your partner about what could take some of the strain off, such as approaching loved ones to perform errands or prep meals, and remind each other that support is deserved. Before asking for any help, it’s important to explain your child’s situation, as they may not appreciate the complexities of autism, the fluctuations in emotional responses, or the sensory needs. Be as detailed as you need to be, both to protect and ensure everyone knows what is and isn’t acceptable.
Children are precious, and they bring joy to our lives. As parents, we can nurture a safe environment ideal for ASD and plan ahead for their security. It’s understandable to feel daunted, but this is just one part of your family’s journey.