Caring For a Family Member with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition that affects approximately 1% of the world’s population. Although the severity of this disorder, abilities, and needs of people with autism may vary, there are some common autism disorder symptoms observed among people with ASD.
Such symptoms include:
- Social interaction difficulties
- Communication problems
- Restricted interests
- Difficulty maintaining eye contact
- Repetitive behavior
Caring for a family member with Autism Spectrum Disorder can be overwhelming. While it’s true that your loved one may not simply outgrow this disorder, here are tips that can help you become a better caregiver to them.
1. Learn Everything You Can About ASD
Being knowledgeable about autism will help you become a better carer.
ASD is a complex condition that is characterized by a spectrum of behavioral, developmental, and social challenges. Since symptoms differ from one person to another, you should learn the best ways to manage your loved one’s condition.
Seek information from the doctors and therapists and be an active participant in your family member’s therapy and treatment. Joining autism communities in your area and reading widely can also help you gain more information about the condition.
2. Have a Routine and Be Consistent
Everyone on the autistic spectrum requires some form of structure and consistency for them to cope. You may notice that your loved one prefers to follow consistent routines.
Having laid down routines and being consistent will help in the management of your loved one’s behavior. It also reduces their anxiety.
You can come up with routines for everyday activities such as meals, therapy, or sleep. Keep distractions to a minimum during such times. Ensure you also let your autistic loved one know of any change in their schedule in advance to reduce confusion.
3. Find Ways to Communicate
One of the autistic disorder symptoms in people with ASD is difficulties in communication. Some may find small talk overwhelming, while others will withdrawal to themselves.
Some ways you can ensure communication doesn’t become a challenge for your autistic family member includes:
- Learn to pick out nonverbal cues that your loved one uses to communicate
- Use body language, touch, and facial expressions to communicate with your loved one if they don’t want to talk
- Avoid information overload as it can be difficult for a person with autism to filter out the critical bits in a conversation
- Speak slowly and repeatedly communicate with specific words for them to understand
- Be patient with them
4. Provide Protection
Autistic people struggle to communicate their emotions, so it can be challenging to know when they are uncomfortable or upset.
You should monitor your loved one’s behavior and understand the reasons for any changes. Let them know they’re loved. You also need to talk to them about abuse and how best they can keep themselves safe.
People with autism can also hurt themselves, especially if they are prone to tantrums or other self-injuring methods. This may require you to set boundaries that your family member can understand. You can also safety proof your home if you’re afraid that your loved one may hurt themselves.
5. Stay Positive and Take Care of Yourself
Caring for a family member with autism can be overwhelming. But try to stay positive.
Don’t focus on how different your loved one is but choose to enjoy their milestones and successes. Accept and love them unconditionally, as this goes a long way in helping you and your loved one cope.
You should also prioritize self-care as you’ll only be a great carer if you’re physically and emotionally healthy.
Some of the self-care tips you can use include:
- Get enough sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Find time to relax and have fun
- Seek help when you feel overwhelmed
- Seek counseling for you and your other family members
- Join autism support groups and communities for emotional and social support
Individuals with ASD face unique challenges, and so do their caregivers. The above five tips will help you find comfort and joy as you spend time and take care of your autistic family member.