What You Should Know as the Father of an Autistic Child
Being a parent is one of the greatest joys life has to offer—but being the father of an autistic child can bring special challenges for a parent. How can you balance the specific needs of your child while managing your own mental, emotional, and physical health? We’ve got some advice for fathers that will help to savor the best parts of parenting an autistic child—without getting caught up in some of the trials.
The best way to tackle a situation you don’t fully understand is with knowledge. Thankfully, there’s a lot of great research out there on autism. There are hundreds of books on the subject, as well as videos on everything from the basics of autism to everyday tips.
If you don’t have any frame of reference, we suggest you start by learning the answer to an essential question: what is autism? The more you know, the better you can address new situations as they arise.
Don’t Neglect Your Health
While it’s important to spend time learning about autism and working to provide the best life for your child, don’t forget about your own health. Many parents have a natural urge to ignore feelings of tiredness and even frustration so they can put on a brave face for their family. This might work for a little while, but it’s not a sustainable plan.
It’s much better to take the time you need to relax rather than waiting for exhaustion to overwhelm you. In many cases, the stakes aren’t as dramatic as a complete crash—oftentimes parents will simply slip up and forget an everyday task. When that happens, take it as a sign that you might need a little break. Do something fun just for you—remember when you used to have hobbies? Get reacquainted with a favorite pastime and remind yourself that it’s okay to take a breather! A great relaxation technique to try is meditation—it’s helpful for calming yourself down and reducing stress.
Be Open To Assistance
Many men feel the need to solve their own problems and view asking for help as a sign of weakness. However, asking for help is sometimes the most liberating thing you can do. This is especially true for first-time fathers and fathers of autistic children. There will always be things you don’t know—but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn!
Instead of gritting your teeth and trying to do everything yourself, ask for help when you need it and be willing to accept it when it’s offered. You’re not alone—so many parents have come before you and are here to help. There are online communities that offer advice and friendship. Don’t forget to ask , the people you’re closest to for help. They are often great resources if you just ask for assistance.
Tips for Daily Life
In addition to the mindset shifts you can make, you can also do small things in everyday life as the father of an autistic child.
Positive reinforcement is the best choice for children on the autism spectrum. When your child does something well, you should take time to praise them—this encouragement is great for parents and children!
When you celebrate your child, make sure to be specific and help them understand exactly why you liked their behavior or action. You can pair verbal praise with rewards, too, like extra time outside or a fun activity your child enjoys.
Create a Consistent Schedule
Routines are very important to people of all ages on the spectrum. Consistency helps them feel secure, so make schedules a priority when you can. Of course, there are times when routines need to change, so do your best to prepare your child for that transition. For example, consider easing them into pre-school by simulating the schedule of a school day at home before they start.
Bring Your Child On Your Errands
We understand—it’s not always easy to bring your child along for everyday errands. Unpredictable behavior can be, well, unpredictable! However, taking your children with you to the grocery store or the bank teaches them essential skills and helps them get used to daily life.
The most important thing to remember for every parent is that you aren’t alone. Don’t wait until you feel overwhelmed to ask for help. Reach out to Ability Life Solutions or our Facebook community. We’re here to help and happy to guide you through whatever you’re facing on your autism journey.