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Tips for living with autism

  1. Autism is an endurance race, not a sprint. Unlike a medical emergency, autism is a condition that will continue to be present throughout that person’s life. It is important for everyone involved to be aware of this and not pretend to “sacrifice everything” at first in the hope of making the situation go away. Siblings without autism, parents, and, of course, children with autism have daily and long-term needs that must be addressed.

  1. Start treatment. Starting to do things for your child will give you the peace of mind you need to deal with the emotions that will inevitably arise. On the other hand, early intervention has been shown to provide the best results. A developmental disorder does not get better if left unattended; in fact, it tends to get worse. Timely intervention helps to bring the developmental trajectory as close as possible to a “regular” trajectory.

  1. Ask for help. Autism spectrum disorders affect several (or many) areas of the child’s development, but also family life. It is very important that you ask yourself what are your sources of support (emotional, economic, daily life) and that you make use of them. It is not weak to ask a friend or relative to take the siblings to the movies, or to take care of your child with autism, or to cook dinner for you. Remember: autism is a long race, and you need to take care of yourself in order to take care of your child.

  1. Rest. Sleep and rest are essential for making appropriate decisions. Only if you are rested will you be able to meet all the challenges that life and autism will throw at you.

  1. Limit time on the Internet. Although it sounds contradictory, it is important to mention this point. The Internet will be a great source of information and support for you. You will find out about lots of therapeutic and educational alternatives for your child, you may find resources and practical solutions for your family, you will often find blogs and sites to exchange experiences with other parents, and, without a doubt, you will find a lot of information about autism. However, there is more information on the Internet than we could ever read in a lifetime, and much of it is misinformation. Sometimes, you will help your child more by spending a pleasant time interacting with him or her than by searching for the latest advances in science on the Internet.

  1. Never deny your feelings. Talk about your feelings with people who are good listeners and have your best interests at heart. Don’t pretend to ignore what you are feeling in the hope that it will go away. Remember that everyone involved with your child will be experiencing some degree of pain from the diagnosis.

  1. Partner with your child’s therapist(s). Although sometimes therapists, doctors, and/or psychologists tell you things that you would rather not hear, remember that they are telling you in order to help your child and support you. Of course, you have the right to seek a second opinion, and if you consider it necessary you should do so, but remember that stability, consistency, and congruence in treatment always give the best results.

  1. Get involved in the autism community. Meet other parents who are dealing with the disorder. Let your children without autism meet other children in the same conditions. You may find the best friends in these communities: people who, having been in your shoes, will understand many things without you having to explain them to them. Learn from others: strategies, achievements, frustrations, mistakes. Other people have experienced the same as your family, and have found tranquility, well-being and hope, in spite of autism, or even thanks to it.

  1. Discover your child’s strengths, abilities, and interests. And build on them. We are all better at what we like, and we like what we do well. Children with autism are no exception. Is your child a lover of textures and consistency? Have him or her help you knead cookie dough. Help him or her use his or her skills in family life every day.

  1. Appreciate all of your child’s accomplishments. Remember that your child has a hard time acquiring some skills – he/she is working hard, too!

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