Those early years with your child with autism can be incredibly challenging. I know. I’ve been there. When I look back to when my son was 2-5 years old with a brother 18 months younger, it’s often a blur, but when I have a client struggling to get through those years, it quickly takes me back there.
My son was diagnosed in 1995. At that time, where we were located, a lot of the children received only a single diagnosis; autism. I never heard of a dual diagnosis with ADHD, ODD (oppositional defiant disorder), or PDA (pathological demand avoidance). I remember asking one of my son’s doctors about ADHD and he replied that it wasn’t necessary. He indicated it would be the same as someone with the seasonal flu being told they have a runny nose. I know, the statistics indicate that not every autistic child has ADHD. (I did a quick look at the literature and according to this article 50-70% of people with autism spectrum disorder have ADHD.)
But diagnosing has changed in the last 25-30 years and your child may have more than one diagnosis. Regardless, most of our children are difficult to parent and require a lot from us. I found I had to dig deeply to find patience, creativity, and the constant need to be on alert. To make it a bit easier, everything was childproofed. I used hook and eye type of closures at the top of closet doors that were out of reach, even if he climbed up on a chair. Kitchen cabinets had child locks, even double locks. Yes, he could get through them, but it usually gave me enough time to get there before he dumped out a canister of flour. And so I didn’t quash his curiosity, there were cabinets that he had access to. But these cabinets were less of a mess to put back the contents. If I had repeated instances of him getting into things like flour, sugar, or even eggs, I would focus on giving him the appropriate sensory play that he was clearly indicating he needed.
Another thing I learned early on was when his behavior was undesirable, instead of telling him to stop what he was doing, I would give him options of what he could do. If he was poking or hitting his younger brother, who was an infant, instead of telling him not to hit (I honestly believe he did not understand or hear the word ‘not’ and only heard ‘hit’), I would tell him to play peek a boo with his brother or I would ask him if he wanted to play with his airplane.
Giving options helped not only with changing his behavior, but also gave him some control. If we had a commitment outside of the house and I was struggling to get him dressed, I may ask him if he wanted to stay in his pajamas and play at home or did he want to get dressed so he could see his grandma. I was lucky that my grandma often went everywhere with us and she was his favorite.
I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up visuals. When my child was young, PECS were what we had, and anytime I was struggling with specific things with my son, I would consider if a visual would help the situation and what that visual might be. What is your child’s behavior indicating to you?
I’m here to help you survive these early years with your child with autism. It does typically get easier, but the beginning is especially difficult because there’s so much to learn and a lot of appointments, not to mention the emotions that are just below the surface that you may be afraid to look at. Whatever type of support you need from me, please book a complimentary introductory call so we can get started.