As we grow older, we generally develop better communication skills and the ability to understand and express our own needs and emotions. However, this can be a more consistent issue for people on the autisic spectrum, as they may have difficulty detecting and making sense of their own emotions or where they stem from. Even as an adult, I often have to troubleshoot my own emotions to understand what caused them, especially if it’s related to things or patterns that I’m not yet consciously aware of.
This can make it difficult for me to communicate my needs, understand what is impacting me, or find ways to help myself. Imagine how difficult it would be for a child who doesn’t yet have the language skills or knowledge to communicate their needs and emotions.
How can you help?
There are many things you can do to help your autistic child. One of the most effective strategies is to pay attention to what is happening in their environment when they are struggling, and look for patterns or correlations over time. Some things to consider include:
- Environment: Was the place busy or quiet? Were there loud noises or bright lights? Did the textures, smells, or tastes of food differ from what the child was used to?
- Duration and unexpected events: How long were they out for? Did the trip take longer than usual or involve unplanned activities? Did the plans change?
- Setting and socialization: What setting were you in (e.g., busy road, shop, public building, party)? Were they required to socialize more than usual? If they were social, what kind of social setting was it (e.g., with a special interest or in a more general setting)?
- Clothing and tasks: What were they wearing? Was it tight, itchy, or otherwise uncomfortable? If they were being guided through a task, were the instructions clear and concise?
- Busy schedule: How busy had their day already been?
By noting down factors that could be impacting your autistic child, over time you may notice certain patterns that frequently coincide with stress or meltdowns. These patterns could potentially reveal some of the sensory or other issues that your child is struggling with. Once you have identified these challenges, you can look for resources and strategies from autistic adults on how they manage similar issues and see if anything can help your child.
For example, for autistics who are sound sensitive, there are noise-cancelling headphones available with features like “transparency mode,” which allows you to hear traffic when crossing the road. Noise-cancelling headphones have come a long way and often prioritize safety.
In a future blog post, I will share more strategies and tools that I have found helpful in managing some of the challenges that come with being autistic, as well as those that I have heard about from other autistics. It’s important to remember that every autistic person is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. By trial and error, you may be able to find the right tools and strategies to improve your own and your child’s quality of life. Please keep in mind that no one autistic person can speak for the entire community, and it’s important to respect the individuality and diversity of the autism community.