When a Child with Autism Refuses Treatment
You have a child you love very much. You want to help them so that they can develop into as healthy and happy a person as they can be. But they refuse to cooperate with their unique autism treatment. What can you do?
Children with autism can refuse treatment for a variety of reasons. Some reasons make sense, such as short-term pain or a disruption to their schedule. Other reasons are known only to the child, or perhaps not known even to them. Their world may not be right, and they cannot express it. Read further for some things to keep in mind if your child with autism refuses treatment.
Reconsider the Treatment
First of all, consider whether or not your child actually requires treatment. Children with autism are no less worthwhile as a person than someone without autism. Trying to “cure” your child's autism will not benefit you or your child. It can disrupt your relationship for years to come.
Therapy can help your child develop better, though. Just be careful of the therapy. Too-rigorous treatment can have the opposite effect of what is intended, as the stress from the treatment can interfere with their development. Not all treatments work for all children, so be critical when selecting therapies for your child.
Also, be careful about the treatments themselves. Not everything people come up with as a treatment for autism will be beneficial for the children. Even bleach has been used as a treatment for therapy, to disastrous results! Research treatment before accepting, and make sure to talk it over with qualified doctors and other experts. You can listen to the opinions of friends and loved ones to gain a different point of view, but compared to trusted medical professionals, they may not be a good source for new autism treatments.
Much like picking your battles in other aspects of your child's life, make sure that the treatment is worth fighting over. If you are sure it is worth the fight, then follow some of the strategies below.
Arguments will not Help
Any can have difficulties accepting parents’ or guardians’ desires. It is important that you do not argue with your child. You cannot out-logic them. Children very rarely can be reasoned with like an adult can; they just do not think that way.
There are some things you can do when talking with them, however. Keep your attention on them, and ask them to pay attention to you. Explain what you want, then ask them to explain how they feel. You should not dismiss their point of view. Listen to them, repeat what they say to show that you are hearing them, and vocalize what they are feeling.
Children with autism can have difficulty connecting their emotions to their thoughts. By expressing that you know they are frustrated and why, your child can understand their frustration and accept it. This may help them calm down and listen to your point of view.
Autism Loves Routines
It is no secret that children with autism benefit from having a routine. Try to integrate treatment into your child's existing routine. By being consistent in what time of day they practice treatment methods and how long the therapy lasts, the child will more readily accept it into their routine.
Even before starting the treatment, let them know that it will become a part of their routine. Remind them several days in advance what will be happening, and what that will mean for them. On the day of the treatment, keep up the habit of informing them about what will soon happen. Surprises are a threat to their security, so do not let treatment be a surprise.
Give Them Some Control
Children with autism often feel like they have no control over their lives. By giving them some control, they will feel more secure and will be more likely to work with you. Try to avoid giving them commands with no choice; instead, offer them alternatives.
When giving your child choices, do not give them open possibilities. Let them choose from two to three options. Instead of asking them when they want treatment, ask them if they would like treatment in the morning or afternoon. Ask them what they want as a treat for going through with the treatment.
The more your child feels like they can exercise control in their life, the more they will be willing to work with you when you have to exercise your own authority. Plus, it will help your child learn the impact of choices and consequences better than if they are constantly led with no choice in where they are going.
If the treatment is required and you have no leeway to give your child a choice, here is another thing you could try. Explain the results of the treatment to them and the dangers of not undergoing the treatment. Ask them whether they would prefer the benefits of the treatment or the results that could come with refusal. Basically, would they rather have a little pain now, or a lot of pain later? This tactic may not work with all children, but it might work with yours.
Learn From Others
Remember, you are not alone out there. Other parents have children with autism, and there is a large number of doctors and other professionals who have dedicated their lives to helping people on the spectrum.
If you are unsure of a treatment or of your child's response to a treatment, then talk it over with other adults in your child's life. Their teachers and doctors may have insight on how to get them to cooperate. Reach out to other parents of children with autism, especially ones with children older than yours. They have tread on your road before, and may have valuable advice.
Never be too proud to listen. Being humble enough to learn will benefit both you and your child. Continuously educate yourself, and make sure you are learning from high-quality sources. Anyone can post anything they want on the internet, so verify what you're learning.
You Have the Final Say
Finally, remember that as parent, you have the final say when it comes to your child. If you are convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the treatment will be good for your child, and that the stress from the treatment will not be worse than the benefits of the treatment, you have to make the best decision for your family.
If you have to exert your parental authority in this manner, try to minimize the potential impact to your relationship with your child. You should know their likes and dislikes, so explain to them how your choice is more like something they dislike. Then, try to do something they like after the treatment is over. Make sure to follow through with what you say.
The Bottom Line
Sometimes, persuading your child to undergo treatment to help their autism can be difficult. You can make the process easier by working with your child. Selecting only treatments which are beneficial, explaining the benefits of the therapy and the negatives of refusal, and giving your child some control over his or her life are some of these ways.
Other strategies may be helpful as well, so never stop learning from trustworthy sources and from experienced people in your child's life. Finally, never forget that today will soon be yesterday, and what seems like a major problem today may be forgotten tomorrow. Always have the long-term health of your child in mind.