Autism: Choosing your battles

Autism is a Spectrum Disorder and never affects just a singular aspect of any one person.  Parenting a child with Autism can be overwhelming when you first get the diagnosis.  Where to start?  What can I do to help my autistic child?  What therapies are available in Autism South Africa?  Autism schools in South Africa and how can they help my child or should I go the one-on-one route with pure ABA therapy? 

One of the best pieces of advice I can give any parent is to choose your battles and to not try and fix everything at once.  Every phase in a child’s development will present with new battles and if you have the “choosing your battles” approach your autism journey will be much easier.

Some aspects of autism are easier to deal with than others and in the same way some autistic behaviours are more important to break.  Let “society” help you decide what you want to deal with first.  What I mean but this is:  “what is socially acceptable and/or offensive behaviour”? 

For example if your child’s hands are always in their pants and they have a tendency to faecal smear this would be deemed socially offensive and very restrictive and would be a behaviour that needs to be address first whereas flapping of arms or humming is far less important.  The same principal would apply to a child that shows signs of self-harming.  Self harming in autism is very common and if your child bites themselves or bashes their head against a wall – this behaviour would take priority over anything and everything ells!

Looking at it from a perspective of “what is acceptable behaviour and what isn’t or what skill is most important” will help you see the challenges your child faces not so much in a hierarchical order, but rather in a logical one.

Choosing your battles will help you identify skills that are necessary before the next larger skill can be approached.  It will also give you a sense of accomplishment.  Each challenge that you help your child overcome is a huge achievement.  Keep a diary of techniques that worked as the same technique may very well work for another area of development in the not too distant future.

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Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.