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Connecting with your child (who happens to have ASD)

If you have a child with Autism, you carry an extra role on top of the may others that you have acquired. You are a mother/father, maybe a husband/wife/partner, an employee, a friend, and so on. For parents raising a child on the Autism spectrum, you are also an advocate, a therapist, a coordinator, etc. Juggling these many roles, while managing your own emotions and needs, can leave little space to focus on connecting with your child. This can be felt at any stage, whether your child is younger or older, and whether the diagnosis is new or pre-existing.

There are a few notions to keep in mind, which may help you to build and maintain a positive connection with your child.

  • Children on the Autism spectrum are children first It is helpful to focus on the unique characteristics of your child, such as their interests and their personality. Second to that, is their diagnosis of Autism. Their diagnosis may influence their interests and personality but it does not precede them or define them. This is the reason why the term "child with autism" is preferred over terms such as "autistic child."

  • It is ok to fail You may know about the importance of not giving your child what they want when they request it by hitting, or not yelling at them purely out of your own frustration. But in life not every day is perfect, nor is any person, or every decision in a given moment. You can only simply reflect on what went awry, plan on what to do differently next time, and move on. Dwelling on it will only cause you to feel negative about your current parenting journey. Such negativity can impact on the connection with your children.

  • Celebrate the small wins Every child is making steps towards new achievements every day. They do this at their own pace, which may differ from their peers. Rather than worrying that your child cannot take turns in play yet as his friends do, celebrate with him the fact that he has learned to let others play next to him - this is a step towards later turn taking. Celebrating the small wins increases positive interactions between you and your child, and also adds happy moments to your experience as a parent.

  • Take time for yourself As the saying goes, "You can't pour from an empty cup; look after yourself first." Maintaining your own mental health will give you the energy and positivity needed to engage with your child in ways which fosters a close connection. For a busy parent, taking some time out may require significant planning and scheduling, but it is worth it and should be prioritised.

If you would like support regarding your role as a parent, and/or the relationship with your child, please don't hesitate to speak with your GP or a Psychologist.