Provide a Retreat for Stress Triggers
A stress-free environment for your child requires that you not only be consistent with the structure of events but also reward the child's good behavior when the opportunity arises. Some great retreat structures that have worked well for ASD children include the following.
Consistency in the child's environment
If your child is irritated by frequent changes in the environment, it is because children with autism have difficulties applying what they have learned in one context to a different setting. A child may therefore struggle to do what he or she learned in school and find it challenging.
You can prevent the irritations by creating a consistent environment for the child. This may require you to learn and replicate what the therapists are doing in your own home. Also consider continuously exposing your child to therapy under different conditions. Such gradual changes will allow the child to learn how to transfer skills to various environments hence reducing stress levels. Bottom line is to ensure that you are consistent in the way you interact with your son or daughter and address any challenging behavior.
Have a schedule and stick to it
Children with autism tend to relax and even be happy when they have a structured, predictable routine. You can, therefore, set up an appropriate schedule for your child based on their needs and cravings for consistency. Include regular activities like meals, school, play, and therapy in the child’s daily program.
Depending on your child’s stress triggers, you may go out of your way to reduce instances of disruption of the daily program. In the event of an inevitable change of schedule, prepare your child for such changes well in advance.
Rewarding the child’s good behavior
Positive reinforcement can help your child with autism to avoid getting into stress. Therefore, always congratulate your child for doing something good. For example, praise your child when they develop a new skill or behave appropriately.
For success, your child should know why they are praised. You may reward by allowing them more time to play or giving them stickers.
Develop a safe zone at home
Fear is one of the leading causes of stress in the children with ASD. It is therefore your duty as a parent to provide the feeling of safety to your child. This may need you to have a separate space in the home where your child can feel secure and safe. Put in place some visual cues and collections of toys that your child will look at and feel relaxed.
You can always use tapes and pictures to mark an area so that a child can easily identify the area as their safe zone. This is also a helpful safe-proofing strategy for your child in the house and is especially necessary if your child throws tantrums or has acquired destructive habits that can cause self-injury.
The child can be trained on the use of relaxation strategies while in their safe zones.
Helping your child to adopt strategies that he or she can use to reduce feelings of anxiety and to calm down is yet another approach you need to consider. Finally, for these strategies to be effective, your child has to first learn when they need to calm. Once he is familiar with this, your work will be guiding him through the calming process when they are stressed.
Consider the following simple ideas:
- Take 10 deep breaths
- Go to the safe zone or quiet room to relax
- Read your favorite story
- Jump on a trampoline
- Shut your eyes for a few seconds