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  • Writer's pictureElle James

25 Ways Life Looks Different Parenting an Autistic Child

Happy girl - Ways Life Looks Different Parenting an Autistic Child

Parenting an autistic child is a journey that often leaves others wondering what it's like to walk in our shoes.


Before our child's autism diagnosis, we began noticing subtle signs that hinted at something being different. Certain behaviors and traits caught our attention early on.


Around the age of two, we observed a significant regression in his skills. Communication became increasingly challenging as he gradually withdrew into his own world. By the age of 3 our child received a formal diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).


Parenting an autistic child has taught us invaluable lessons about patience, empathy, and the beauty of neurodiversity. We've come to appreciate the world through their unique lens, recognizing that their differences make them extraordinary. While there are certainly moments of frustration and exhaustion, there are also moments of profound joy and pride.


Daily life in our household may look a bit different. We have learned to adapt our routines and create a structured environment that provides a sense of security and predictability. Our daily interactions are filled with patience, understanding, and flexibility.


We have come to realize that the differences in our daily life make us stronger, more compassionate individuals, and we are grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow alongside our autistic child.


Here are a few examples of how our daily life looks a little different.



25 Ways Life Looks Different Parenting an Autistic Child


1. Eloping Or Wandering Away In Public


One of the most distressing challenges we face parenting an autistic child is my child's tendency to elope or wander away when out in public. He not only wanders away, but struggles with understanding dangerous situations or has difficulties with impulse control, making it crucial to implement strategies to ensure his safety.


Teaching and practicing strategies for staying nearby, such as holding hands, can help prevent elopement and provide peace of mind when venturing outside the comfort of our home. It requires constant vigilance and proactive measures to ensure their well-being.


As my child grows older, their communication skills improve, and with consistent practice, we have noticed a significant reduction in elopement and wandering.


Child Eloping Or Wandering Away - Parenting an Autistic Child


2. Alarms And Extra Locks On Doors


At home, my child has a tendency to wander outside without our knowledge or awareness of potential dangers. His curiosity and lack of understanding about safety measures have made it necessary for us to implement additional precautions.


We have installed alarms on doors and added extra locks that he can't reach to prevent him from wondering outside without our knowledge and ensure his safety.


These measures provide us with peace of mind knowing that we can effectively monitor their movements and prevent any potential accidents. By taking these precautions, we create a secure environment that allows our child to explore within the confines of our home while minimizing potential risks.



3. Stimming


Stimming, short for self-stimulatory behavior, is a common occurrence with our child, and among young autistic children and toddlers. It is a natural and instinctive way for him to regulate sensory input, express emotions, and find comfort in his surroundings. His stimming behaviors can manifest in various forms, such as hand-flapping, rocking, spinning, or repeating certain sounds or words.


Understanding and accepting stimming as a healthy coping mechanism has allowed me to support my child's self-regulation and provide them with a safe space where they can freely express themselves without judgment or restriction.


Child Stimming - Parenting an Autistic Child


4. Clothing Is Sometimes Optional


Sensory sensitivities may make certain fabrics, textures, or tags uncomfortable or even painful. As a parent, I've learned to prioritize my child's comfort and well-being over societal expectations.


This means allowing my child to have autonomy in choosing their clothing, whether that means wearing looser or softer garments, selecting clothing without tags, or even opting for minimal clothing when appropriate.


By embracing the concept that clothing can be optional, I provide my child with the freedom to navigate their sensory needs and express themselves authentically.



5. Everything Gets Pulled Off The Shelves


My child has a tendency to pull everything off the shelves. Their curiosity and sensory-seeking behaviors can lead to a desire to explore and interact with objects around them.


As a result, babyproofing measures become essential. We have also introduced alternative outlets for their need to explore, such as sensory bins or designated play areas, to redirect their attention and encourage positive engagement.


Child pulling things off the shelf - Parenting an Autistic Child




6. We Don’t Say “No”


My child frequently struggles with hearing and accepting the word "No." They may become fixated on a specific desire or routine and have difficulty understanding or respecting boundaries.


To address this challenge, we have found alternative wording and redirection to be effective strategies. Instead of simply saying "No," we provide clear explanations or offer alternative choices. For example, instead of saying "No, you can't have that toy," we might say, "That toy is not available right now, but we can play with another toy together."


This approach helps to redirect their attention and provide alternative options, reducing frustration and promoting cooperation. By using gentle and positive language, we can navigate these situations with greater ease and foster a more harmonious environment for both our child and our family.



7. Babyproof Everything


Curiosity and sensory-seeking behaviors have led my child to explore their surroundings with great enthusiasm.


As a result, extensive babyproofing measures have become essential, securing furniture to the walls, locking kitchen cabinets, securing shelves with childproof locks, organizing items in bins or containers, not placing fragile or dangerous items within reach, and minimizing potential hazards to maintain a safe environment.


Parenting an Autistic Child


8. No Fragile Home Décor


Fragile home decorations have become impractical in our household. The unpredictable nature of my child's sensory-seeking behaviors means prioritizing practicality and durability over delicate decor choices.



9. Jumping On Furniture


My child's need for sensory input sometimes translates into jumping on furniture, like couches or beds. We have learned from his Occupational Therapist, he seeks the deep pressure and proprioceptive input that jumping provides, which helps regulate his sensory system.


I've learned to find alternative ways to meet his sensory needs. Providing him with designated areas or equipment, such as a sensory trampoline or crash pad, allows him to safely engage in jumping activities.


By understanding and acknowledging their need for sensory input, we can work together to find appropriate outlets for his energy while ensuring his safety.


Child jumping - Parenting an Autistic Child


10. Meltdowns


Meltdowns are a reality that we encounter frequently. When overwhelmed by sensory input, changes in routine, or difficulty expressing their needs, his emotions can escalate rapidly, leading to meltdowns. These episodes can involve intense crying, screaming, self-stimulatory behaviors, and an overall sense of distress.


As a parent, it is crucial for me to remain calm, patient, and understanding during these moments. By creating a safe and supportive environment, providing sensory tools or comfort items, and offering reassurance, I can help my child regulate his emotions and gradually calm down.


Understanding the triggers and patterns that lead to meltdowns allows me to implement proactive strategies and support my child's emotional well-being.





11. Transitions Are Hard


My child often struggles with transitions or changes in routines. He relies on predictability and familiarity to navigate the world, and unexpected alterations to their daily routine can cause significant stress and anxiety.


As parents, we have learned the importance of providing clear communication to prepare him for upcoming transitions. We often use visual schedules, use timers, and offer ample warning to help him navigate these changes with more ease.


Additionally, we try maintaining a consistent and structured routine as much as possible, to give him a sense of security and stability.


Timers and Parenting an Autistic Child




12. Outings End In Meltdowns


Navigating public spaces can be overwhelming for my child due to sensory overload, unfamiliar environments, and social demands. Outings can quickly turn into stressful experiences, resulting in meltdowns.


We plan outings carefully, preparing him with visual supports and social stories, and gradually exposing him to new environments has helped alleviate anxiety and reduce the likelihood of meltdowns.



13. Loud Noises Are A Challenge


My child often struggles with loud noises when we're out in public. Busy environments, crowded places, or unexpected loud noises can trigger anxiety and distress.


As parents, we have become proactive in addressing these difficulties. I strive to anticipate potential triggers and provide warnings ahead of time, allowing my child to mentally prepare and cover their ears if necessary.


As he grows older, we may explore the use of noise-canceling headphones or earplugs to offer them a sense of comfort and reduce sensory overload.


Headphones and Parenting an Autistic Child


14. Potty Training Takes Awhile


Potty training my child has been a milestone that required immense perseverance. Unlike my other two children, who were potty trained before 3 years old, my son faced communication difficulties and resistance to change, which prolonged the process. It wasn't until he was 4 years old that he finally became fully potty trained, although he still needs constant reminders to prevent accidents.


Throughout this journey, we embraced a patient and consistent approach, incorporating visual aids and positive reinforcement, to gradually teach him toileting skills. Celebrating every small step forward played a vital role in maintaining his motivation and ensuring progress.





15. Mealtimes Aren't Always At The Table


One of the hurdles we encounter is adapting to non-traditional mealtimes. Sitting at the table can be overwhelming for my child due to sensory sensitivities or a need for movement.


To ensure proper nutrition, we have learned to embrace flexibility, allowing meals to happen in comfortable spaces that suit my child's needs.


Child eating and Parenting an Autistic Child


16. We Eat the Same Meals


The need for routine and familiarity is a significant aspect of comfort and security, which means eating the same meals every day of the week. My child finds solace in the predictability of their meals. Introducing new foods or varying the menu can be overwhelming and trigger sensory sensitivities.


As a parent, I've learned to embrace this aspect of his eating habits, ensuring they receive a balanced diet while incorporating small variations or subtle changes to promote exposure to new flavors and textures over time.



17. Picky Eating


Navigating picky eating habits has been a continuous journey. Sensory sensitivities often limit my child's food choices and willingness to try new things.


As parents, we have learned to be patient and understanding while also introducing a variety of foods in a gentle and gradual manner. We respect his individual preferences as much as possible. We always offer him foods he is comfortable with during a meal, while exposing him to new options that he is not required to eat.


Finding creative ways to incorporate nutritious ingredients into their preferred meals has been key in ensuring they receive a balanced diet.


Child picky eating and Parenting an Autistic Child


18. Requests For Specific Cups, Plates, And Utensils


My child often requests specific cups, plates, utensils, or other tableware. He has a strong preference for certain colors, shapes, or textures that provide him with a sense of familiarity and comfort during mealtimes.


By allowing him to have control over his choice of utensils and dishes, we create a sense of empowerment and reduce the likelihood of mealtime challenges or aversions.


Understanding and accommodating their preferences in this area has made a significant difference in their enjoyment and engagement during meals, fostering a positive and peaceful dining atmosphere for our family.



19. Obsession With Numbers And Letters


My child's intense fixation on numbers and letters has been a double-edged sword. While it showcases his unique strengths, it can sometimes hinder their engagement in other developmental areas.


Encouraging a balance between his interests and diverse experiences has been essential for his growth and development.


Number toys and Parenting an Autistic Child

20. Toys And Play Look Different


I have discovered that toys are approached differently and may not conform to popular or age-appropriate norms. My child's play style is distinct and often revolves around his individual interests and sensory preferences.


He typically finds joy in lining up objects, repetitive actions, or focus on specific features of a toy, such as watching a wheels of a car spin. I have learned to embrace his unique play style, and provide a variety of toys that cater to his sensory needs and interests.





21. Same Show Over And Over


Repetitive behaviors, like watching the same show or movie repeatedly, offer my child a sense of comfort and familiarity. Observing my child's enthusiasm as he eagerly presses play, reciting lines along with the characters and immersing himself in the storyline, I've learned that repetition is not just a repetitive act for them, but a source of joy and stability. It's a reminder to embrace his individuality and find beauty in the little things that bring him happiness.


Child watching TV and Parenting an Autistic Child


22. Social Interactions Require Support


My child faces unique challenges when it comes to social interactions, often preferring solitary activities over group play. He often struggles with grasping social norms, making consistent eye contact, or taking turns during conversations or games.


As a parent, I understand the importance of supporting their social development. I provide opportunities for structured and supportive social interactions, such as arranging playdates with familiar peers, encouraging play with siblings, and enrolling them in group activities.





23. Brushing Teeth, Combing Hair, And Getting Dressed Can Be A Battle


Simple daily tasks like brushing teeth, combing hair, and getting dressed often become battlegrounds. Sensory sensitivities and a need for routine make these activities challenging. Patience, gentle guidance, and incorporating sensory accommodations have helped transform these battles into moments of growth and progress.


As my child grows older and with help from an occupational therapist, we have noticed a significant improvement with these activities.


Child brushing teeth and Parenting an Autistic Child


24. There Is No Going To Bed Early


Sleep disruptions are a common occurrence in our household. Sensory regulation difficulties and anxiety often make it challenging for my child to settle down at night. Establishing calming bedtime routines, and incorporating sensory accommodations have been vital in creating a peaceful sleep environment.



25. Haircuts Are Hard


Haircuts can be particularly challenging for my child due to sensory sensitivities and difficulty with unfamiliar situations. Finding a patient and understanding hairstylist, utilizing visual supports, and gradually introducing the haircutting process have been crucial in making it a more manageable experience.


haircuts and Parenting an Autistic Child


Final Thoughts


Parenting an autistic child is a journey filled with unexpected twists and turns. Each day brings its own set of challenges, but with patience, understanding, and unwavering love, we navigate through them together.


By sharing my experiences, I hope to raise awareness, promote acceptance, and foster a more inclusive society for all families on similar journeys.



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