Navigating the realm of therapy and interventions can be an arduous task, especially when services are delayed, and the effectiveness of the interventions is not guaranteed. Nonetheless, parents can play a crucial role in their child’s therapy by devising their own therapeutic strategies and exercises. Waiting for services can feel like an eternity, and when you do finally receive them, they may not be sufficient. However, as parents, we can take an active role in our child’s therapy by implementing our own therapeutic strategies and exercises.
The first step in doing your own therapies for your autistic child is to educate yourself about the condition. Read books, attend workshops, and talk to other parents who have experience with autism. This will help you understand your child’s unique strengths and challenges and give you ideas for therapy techniques that may be effective.
Once you have a basic understanding of autism, the next step is to create a therapy plan. Start by identifying your child’s goals. For example, does your child struggle with social communication, sensory processing, or behavior management? Once you have identified your child’s goals, you can start to develop a plan that includes specific strategies and exercises to help your child achieve those goals.
Here are some examples of therapeutic techniques and exercises that parents can do at home:
- Social Skills Training: Many children with autism struggle with social communication, making it difficult to form and maintain relationships with others. To improve social skills, parents can engage their child in role-playing games, where they can practice social scenarios in a safe and controlled environment. For example, parents can pretend to be a friend or a teacher, and the child can practice initiating conversation, sharing toys, or taking turns.
- Sensory Integration Therapy: Many children with autism have sensory processing difficulties, which can make them feel overwhelmed by their environment. Sensory integration therapy involves providing sensory input to help the child regulate their sensory system. For example, parents can create a sensory room in their home, where the child can play with different textures, sounds, and lights. This can help the child become more comfortable with sensory input and reduce their sensory sensitivity.
- Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): ABA is a therapeutic technique that is widely used to treat autism. It involves breaking down complex behaviors into smaller, more manageable steps and rewarding the child for completing each step. Parents can implement ABA techniques at home by creating a behavior plan for their child, identifying the behaviors they want to target, and rewarding their child for exhibiting positive behavior.
- Communication Therapy: Many children with autism struggle with verbal communication, making it difficult to express their needs and wants. Parents can implement communication therapy at home by using visual aids, such as pictures, symbols, or sign language, to help their child communicate. Parents can also use social stories, which are short narratives that describe social situations in a way that the child can understand.
- Physical Therapy: Many children with autism struggle with motor skills, such as balance, coordination, and fine motor skills. Parents can implement physical therapy exercises at home by creating a simple obstacle course or providing the child with toys that encourage fine motor skills, such as stacking blocks or playing with playdough.
It’s important to note that doing your own therapies for your autistic child is not meant to replace professional services. Rather, it should be used in conjunction with therapy services to provide additional support and reinforcement. Doing your own therapies at home can also be beneficial while waiting for services to start, as it can provide your child with much-needed support in the interim.
In addition to providing your child with therapy at home, it’s also important to create a supportive environment that promotes their well-being. This means creating a routine, providing consistent expectations, and creating a calm and structured environment. For example, parents can create a visual schedule for their child that outlines their daily routine, including times for meals, therapy, and play. This can help the child understand what to expect and reduce anxiety.
Utilizing one or a blend of these therapies can aid in the advancement of your child. As caregivers, we have the responsibility to oversee and direct the therapies our children receive. It is crucial that we stay informed and take charge in this aspect. This way, not only will our children benefit greatly, but we, as parents, will also continue to learn from them.