Living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is not easy. The world can appear far more threatening, far more confusing, and far more overwhelming when you are on the spectrum than it does to those who are not. When you are faced with ASD, life and learning skills that may come easily to your neurotypical counterparts may feel mystifying and unconquerable to you.
And when you are the parent of a child with ASD, seeing your child struggle on a daily basis can both break your heart and fill it with fear.
But an autism diagnosis does not have to rob your child of the happy, healthy, and joyous life they deserve. The key, though, lies in cultivating a lifestyle that prioritizes self-care. When you are on the autism spectrum, after all, you need and are entitled to an extra portion of self-nurturing in order to meet the challenges of the day with courage, strength, fortitude, and resilience.
Understanding Individual Needs
You can’t very well help your child learn to practice self-care if they don’t learn first how to recognize their own unique needs. This should include helping children with autism understand their ASD and how it impacts them.
Teaching your child to recognize early on the signs that they are becoming fatigued, anxious, or overstimulated is an essential first step in enabling them to respond productively, to stop the cascade before it begins.
Adults who are on the autism spectrum are often at an increased risk for experiencing burnout, but children with ASD may also experience the decline in stamina, focus, motivation, cognition, and emotional self-regulation often associated with burnout.
Thus, if your child begins exhibiting signs of mental or physical distress, such as irritability, insomnia, loss of appetite, or restlessness, then it may be a sign that your child is becoming physically and/or emotionally depleted.
Teaching your child to recognize these signs for what they are and then providing them with self-care response strategies can be highly effective in helping your child to manage their ASD and enjoy a higher quality of life overall for the rest of their lives. For instance, you might teach your child with ASD to simplify tasks by breaking them down into smaller milestones or to use checklists to help them plan and structure their day.
In addition, you should teach your child that self-care also means giving themselves permission to rest, disengage, and take time out for fun when they need to. Mastering an array of self-care habits, from getting consistent, quality sleep to regularly engaging in a favorite hobby, is critical for your child’s lifelong physical and mental health.
Financial Wellness as Self-Care
When we think of self-care, finances aren’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. In truth, though, your financial well-being is fundamental to your physical, mental, and emotional health.
This is why helping your child develop good financial hygiene should be a core component of their self-care regimen. For instance, even young children can begin learning to differentiate between their needs and their wants, which in turn makes saving and budgeting that much easier.
It’s also important to give your child opportunities to develop good money management skills, such as opening a savings account in your child’s name to give them real-life experience in the value of building a nest egg (with interest). Likewise, giving your child an allowance in exchange for performing certain simple household chores can help them learn the value of a dollar and to associate income with work. Giving your child access to their own money is also an ideal way to enable them to develop impulse control when it comes to spending.
Laugh Every Day
You don’t have to be on the autism spectrum to know that sometimes life’s challenges can get you down. But teaching your child that laughter truly is the best medicine in the world can perhaps be the greatest self-care tool you will ever give them.
So, help your child get in the habit of popping in a favorite funny movie, playing a silly game, or even just dancing and being goofy when they need a pick-me-up. Best of all, modeling this brand of joyful self-care isn’t just going to improve your child’s physical and mental health, but it’s going to be a boost for your mind, body, and spirit as well!
Strong self-care is neither a luxury nor an indulgence. It is essential to good mental, physical, and emotional health. This is particularly true for persons who are on the autism spectrum. Self-care can help children and adults alike to better manage their ASD and enjoy the healthy, happy, peaceful lives they deserve. This is why it’s incumbent upon parents of children with autism to teach their children robust self-care habits early in life.