Autism Series part X: Creating the right treatment plan for your child
If you’ve read this Autism blog series, you now have a TON of information! You’ve learned about medications, natural supplements, scheduling, Gluten-Free options and much more.
The purpose of this final post is to compartmentalize the information from the previous blogs and give specific examples of how integrated treatment might look in your home.
Working With Professionals and Creating Partners
As you know by now, after a child is officially diagnosed with ASD, several new professionals become part of your child’s life. You will likely have regular communication with this new team of professionals and there are more than you think. A common ASD treatment team may consist of a therapist, psychiatrist, speech pathologist, occupational therapist as well as school employees such as special education teachers, IEP counselors, and student aids.
All of these professionals have been trained to treat symptoms of Autism or to teach Applied Behavioral skills to help your child thrive. Sometimes with so many individuals on your treatment team, communication is lost, miscommunicated, and professionals may have differences of opinion.
During professional team and school meetings, you may disagree or not fully understand what is being prescribed. . As these disagreements occur, you might think “Well-they are the professionals,they should know” or “I don’t want to interrupt, so I’ll bring it up later.”
In these situations, it’s important to remember that you know your child better than anyone else. As a parent who lives with the child each day, you have a lot of credibility and responsibility to share your opinion.
Although it is uncomfortable at times, it is vital that you stick up for your child if you feel like something in the treatment plan is being missed, looked over or perhaps a suggestion is simply unrealistic for your family. Speak up!
Most professionals on the treatment team value and appreciate the opinions of parents. We recognize that we only spend a small amount of time with your children, and that your input is valuable and critical to the success of your child.
You are looking for good partners
A partner is a person that one works with in order to achieve a common goal through shared decision-making. As ASD parents you’re looking for partners who have the best interests of your family in mind. It might take time to find the right partners, but your patience and diligence will pay off. Look for partners who take time to listen, evaluate, give suggestions and are willing to make decisions as a team. Partnerships that don’t operate like this don’t last very long.
Having a strong professional team of partners makes the decision making process easier and more comfortable. Remember it is always okay to disagree, as long as the source of the disagreement is simply what is best for your child.
Disagreements may just be a demonstration of the team’s passion to help your family and you will quickly see which partner’s are a good fit within your treatment team.
Support them by listening to them. They have been through this experience before.
SCHEDULES ARE A MUST!
As mentioned in Autism series part IV: “Her excellency” the routine, research, professionals and experienced families all report that SCHEDULES ARE A MUST. This is no coincidence.
ASD children thrive in a structured environment. Visual schedules, chore charts, calendars all help children visually take in parents expectations as well as help them feel safe in a structured environment.
A great way to reduce your child’s frustration and anxiety is through the use of routine charts. This help them establish a consistent schedule and routine throughout the day.
The more structured and consistent their schedule is, the more comfortable your child will feel while transitioning through their day.
A visual daily calendar like this one, helps your child better understand the process of what comes first, second, third etc. and when your child can break away and have fun.
For our boys with ASD, this helps them develop a concrete understanding of the natural order to the day.
Now, it may not be a big deal to the rest of us what order we get dressed, brush our teeth or put on our shoes, but to young children with ASD these simple unknown expectations can be the source of major anxiety.
This might be for several reasons, but research suggests that children with ASD need self-soothing stimuli.
If they are in the middle of a self-soothing activity, it is especially difficult to stop, especially not knowing if the next activity will be soothing or cause them additional anxiety.
By adding a schedule and specific routine, it provides your child with consistency and safety, which over time decreases their anxiety.
Once you create a visual schedule for your children, it is easy to incorporate food, exercise, appointments in as well.
One mother has created a small calendar for just food and exercise on an excel spreadsheet that she has on her phone. She logs in the amount of water her children drink, servings of fruits and vegetables, and then servings of grains.
She then tracks the child’s behavior including sleep patterns and structured play time outside. She has reviewed the chart each week for the last three years and made small adjustments based in part on instinct, but mostly just trial and error☺
By being so diligent over the last three years, she has decreased the tantrums and physical aggression, and increased the amount of peaceful evenings and weekends in her home. Most importantly her son’s behavior has improved.
I cannot speak enough to this topic. In full disclosure, I am a hypocrite and a glutton for punishment. I do not take the personal time that I need to recharge my parenting batteries. I become fully engrossed in the role of being a father and a mental health therapist because I love doing both and am passionate about doing each one well.
I know from personal experience how easy it is to become completely wrapped up in your children’s lives and forget about your own needs and interests.
This is not healthy!
Each time I take a few hours to golf, read a book, or even take a nap (when kids and wife permit) I feel much better and refocused in my commitment to my family and profession.
Here are a few quick ideas on self-care from other ASD parents
- Join a gym
- Join an ASD parents support group
- Have weekly date night
- Take turns as parents to sleep in on weekends
“The hobby doesn’t matter. Just find one and be passionate about it! Having a time each week for me makes the long weeks shorter and LONGER weeks bearable.”
That’s a Wrap
We strongly believe that the skills taught on the Smarter Parenting website help children with ASD to thrive in a strength based, structured home environment.
Try the skills in your home and let us know how it goes!