After my son was diagnosed as autistic my main concern was how best to support him. All the usual parenting techniques had not been working. The thing is autistic people think differently so we need to teach and support them with more diversity. Over time we have found variety of methods to teach, play and interact with both my kids that are suited to their needs.
All children will respond to support methods differently and something may work one day and not the next. Here I will share the most commonly used methods / therapies with links to further information on them.
Choosing the right therapies
Make sure you research any therapies you try, there are so many on offer and sadly some are very controversial. Ensure that you fully understand what the therapy entails and is trying to achieve. My post on choosing autism therapies looks at some of the more contentious therapies.
Speech & Language Support
If your child is struggling with communication you can get a referral to see a speech and language therapist through your health visitor, school / nursery or GP. A speech therapist will be able to identify the right support for your child which could include Makaton, PECS, Intensive Interaction.
It also showed me the importance of supporting and using special interests and fun to encourage communication.
I took a while for me to use visual aids properly and wish I had done it sooner. Visuals are a huge support to ensure my kids understand what is happening, where we are going, what is expected or what I am saying. Find out more in my post about using visual aids to support understanding. You may also be interested on my post about creating visuals.
Visuals can also be used to support teaching non verbal children to read with Downs Ed or See & Learn.
Using Social Stories is a fantastic way to communicate and support children with autism. Social Stories are descriptions with visuals of everyday activities or events. They detail the specifics and what is to be expected in that situation. For older children Comic Strip Conversations may be more appropriate.
Interaction & Play
How we interact and play with our children can make a huge difference. I have been using Intensive Interaction with my youngest and it has really made a difference for him. I have written about the importance of play it really is one of the most beneficial things we can do to engage with our kids.
Another great thing to be aware of is crossing the midline and incorporating this into play.
TEACCH is a teaching method specifically designed for children with autism. This has been brilliant for both my boys.
It provides a routine and structure for teaching that seems to really work for many autistic children. Find out more about using TEACCH at home.
You may want to look at the National Autistic Societies framework SPELL – Structure, Positive approaches and expectations, Empathy, Low arousal, Links.
My eldest is a big LEGO fan and LEGO Therapy will be great to support social skills development in the future. For now we use and adapted version designed to support speech and language.
There are so many great ways to use music with children, playing instruments, singing and dancing.
Music Therapy has been amazing for both my children, from building confidence to communication skills. Find out more in my post on music and autism.
Reading and Story Play
I started reading to my kids as babies and I was surprised how hard it was to engage them with story time as they got older.
There are some brilliant ways to use stories to get children interested in reading. Along with our favourite books for story play.
If you needs some inspiration here is my top 100 books for under 5’s.
Cooking with Children
Cooking or baking is another fun activity with children. The key to support children with communication challenges is using visuals.
See my post with ideas for cooking with children and some printable visuals.
Most autistic children have sensory issues, this can be sensory seeking as well as avoiding. You can work with occupational therapists to develop a sensory diet for your child to ensure they are getting their sensory needs met. Here you can find out more about the sensory side of autism.
Using rewards can be a great support method to encourage your child.
Rewards won’t work for every child but when they do they can be very helpful.
Therapy and support
There are lots of acronyms and words that may be new to you if you are still learning about autism, this glossary may be helpful.
I have also started to interview various autism professionals so we can learn a little more about the people and their roles who are working with autistic children. See my interviews with Sarah an Educational Psychologist and Jessie a Speech Therapist.
My Building Attention eBook might be of interest. It contains tips on getting attention and 23 fun activities.
It is designed to support young children that struggle with attention and communication. Each activity can be completed quickly using household items.
Is there something you would add to this list? Do you have any experience of the therapies and supports listed?