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When your child receives a diagnosis of autism, one of the first questions you may have is, “How can I best help my child?” The short answer is: There isn't just one right answer. Every child is different, and what works for one family may not work for yours. Here are 4 tips that have helped my family make sure we are helping our child to the best of his ability.

Help Yourself

It sounds cliché, but it’s true: You can’t help someone else if you’re not taking care of yourself. This is even more true when you have a child with extra challenges. Unfortunately, it can also be even more difficult to take care of yourself in that situation. Constant meltdowns, endless phone calls to therapy clinics and insurance companies, trying to stop your child from taking off every last stitch of clothing because of sensory issues…who has time to take care of themselves? I’m not going to tell you to take a long bubble bath or make sure you get enough sleep at night, or whatever advice you’ve probably heard a thousand times already. Just like your child, what works for you probably won’t work for someone else; and just like your child, you have to do the best you can to take care of yourself. Sometimes taking care of yourself means taking a trusted friend or relative up on their offer to give you a few hours to wander through Target alone, without having to worry about a meltdown in the middle of the cereal aisle. Sometimes, if that’s not available, helping yourself might mean just holding your head high and ignoring the stares when the inevitable meltdown in the cereal aisle happens. Sometimes it might just mean reminding yourself that you are doing the best you can with what you have available to you. Because you are, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.

Assemble A Team You Trust

You are absolutely the expert on your child. You know her or his likes, dislikes, what is very likely to trigger a meltdown, and tricks to help them through said meltdowns. But it’s good to assemble a team you trust who have expertise in other areas, like speech or occupational therapists, medical providers and educators. These people are important to have in your corner, as they are the ones who will have the most up-to-date research on autism or any other diagnosis your child has. They are the ones who have helped hundreds of other kids with autism and probably have several methods for how best to help your child. Even if their suggestions don’t work perfectly, they may at least give you an idea of something that will help your child.

Another important part of your team is support for you. Remember how you need to help yourself? You’ll want a team to help you help yourself! This may be relatives or friends who can lend a sympathetic ear, or who are willing to take your child for an hour or two just to give you some breathing room. Or it may be other parents who have children with autism, have been there, and "get it" in a way others can’t.

Provide A Safe Space

Your child is, unfortunately, going to face a lot of challenges and uphill battles. There are going to be lots of people who tell you that you need to make sure your child doesn’t do X, or you need to stop them from doing Y, or if you would just do Z, your child would be just fine. In reality, your child doesn’t have to stop doing X if it’s not important that they stop. So what if your child calms himself by hand flapping? Isn’t it great they’ve found a technique to calm themselves? Who cares if her or his only interest in the emotional egg toy is seeing how well the eggs spin? That's creative! It is true that as your child gets older, you may want to help her or him find more socially appropriate ways to calm themselves, or express themselves creatively. But that’s a problem for you to take to that team of experts you trust, not for Aunt Sally to solve when she sees your child on Thanksgiving. In the meantime, what your child needs is for you to provide a safe space for them to be themselves, stimming and all. And if Aunt Sally is horrified that your child is only eating chicken nuggets and goldfish for Thanksgiving, well, that sounds like an Aunt Sally problem, not a you (or your child) problem.

Love Them

Of course you are going to love your child. But your child, like all children, needs to know you love every piece of who they are. Sometimes between all the therapy and medical appointments, it’s hard to remember to take time to just appreciate your child for all of her or his wonderful uniqueness. They need the safe space of knowing you are not going to let anyone run roughshod all over them. They need to know that someone always, always has their back and will always, always love them.


Does your child have autism symptoms and behaviors that need to be tracked during school hours? mytaptrack® will contact your child's school for you. Learn more:

Updated: Dec 12, 2019

There’s a saying in the autism community: "When you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve child with autism." Autism presents differently in every person, so it can be difficult to spot these five signs that a child might have autism. As you look over this list, keep in mind that most children, typically developing or not, will show some of these signs. If the behavior seems to happen more frequently, intensely or last longer than in other children, that’s when it becomes concerning. Any behavior interfering with your child’s daily functioning, it’s always worth mentioning to your child’s doctor.

Social Difficulties

Autism is primarily a social disorder. This means kids with autism struggle with social behavior. That struggle, to the extreme that it interferes with daily life, is the biggest sign of autism. This can mean the stereotypical not making eye contact, being resistant to physical displays of affection, and always playing alone, never with others. The opposite extreme can also be true for kids with autism. Kids who seem to have no awareness of boundaries, who are always seeking out physical comfort, and constantly insert themselves in others’ games with little awareness of socially acceptable ways to do so may also be showing signs of autism. It's not unusual for kids to be more shy or outgoing than expected, but these behaviors exhibited to an extreme may be a sign of autism, and should be tracked.

Communication Difficulties

Since autism is primarily a social disorder, communication can also be affected. It’s not uncommon for kids to begin speaking later than average, but when looking for signs of autism, it’s not producing the actual words that can be concerning. Sometimes it can also be a sign of autism when kids don't attempt to communicate outside of speech, such as not understanding that they can point to show you something interesting, or to show you what they want. Overall, kids tend to understand speech far beyond what they can speak, so if your child doesn’t respond to her or his name, or doesn’t seem to understand and follow instructions, that can also be concerning. If your child has no problem forming words but those words are just repeated phrases heard elsewhere (such as constantly quoting their favorite television show in response to everything), that is also a sign of a communication struggle that should be tracked. Remember, kids develop at different rates and communication disorders can present without autism.

Sensory Avoiding Behavior

Does your child hate the sensation of tags in the back of his clothing? Scream like she’s being eaten by a pack of hungry lions if peanut butter ends up on her finger? Refuse to let anything touch his head, whether it’s a hat, water from the sprinkler or a stylist’s shears? Some kids are totally overwhelmed by the sensory input they receive from the outside world, and will do anything to avoid it. That tag in the back of the shirt, which might be just a mild annoyance to you and me, feels like it's being painfully dragged across the neck of a kid who is overwhelmed by sensory input. Naturally, this child will do anything he can to avoid this, whether that’s fussing and pulling at his shirt all day, or categorically refusing to wear shirts with tags. Sensory avoiding behavior doesn’t absolutely mean your child has autism. Many kids, typically developing or otherwise, find certain sensory inputs to be overwhelming. However, since many kids with autism also struggle with sensory processing, if you notice your child displaying sensory avoidance behavior it could be a sign you should track.

Sensory Seeking Behavior

The flip side is sensory seeking behavior. Autistic kids try to seek out sensory experiences like spinning, flapping their hands, and banging their heads on walls or floors as an attempt to regulate their systems. Instead of finding sensory inputs to be overwhelming, these kids find it difficult to orient themselves without providing their own sensory experience. In fact, it's not uncommon to see both sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behavior in kids with autism. For example, some kids may find tags in their shirts to be unbearable, but still need extra movement to orient their bodies in a new space. Like sensory avoiding behavior, sensory seeking behavior doesn’t necessarily mean your child has autism. It's just something parents might notice is interfering with their child’s daily functioning, and is therefore worth tracking and mentioning to your pediatrician.

Rigid Thinking

Change is very difficult for kids with autism. A small deviation from routine can be enough to send a kid with autism into a tailspin for days. Kids with autism can also be resistant to exploring interests outside of their own interests. It could be a sign of autism if they choose to focus on something such as trains or weather patterns to the exclusion of all else. Change in routine can be difficult for lots of kids, with or without autism. If your child's struggles feel world-ending and she or he will tear apart everything in arm's reach to avoid change, it's a concern you might want to track.

Parents know their child best, and are most likely to spot the early signs of autism. If you have concerns about your child (whether they show these signs or none of them), contact your child’s doctor to discuss them in detail. Together you can create a plan to provide whatever support your child may need.


Does your child have autism symptoms and behaviors you need to track? mytaptrack® will contact your child's school for you. Learn more:

Updated: Dec 12, 2019

When your child first receives a diagnosis of autism it can be overwhelming. It feels like there is so much to do and so many questions. What can I do to help my child? What therapies will best help him? Does she need medication? What do I need to know? Finding answers can be challenging. Here are five places to find info on autism.

Pediatrician, specialist or therapist

By far, the best place to go for information on autism is your child’s medical provider or specialist. A general practitioner should be able to direct you to resources or refer you to a specialist provider. If your child already sees a specialist, such as a developmental pediatrician, that person should have a wealth of information available. They see special needs children all day, every day, and should be able to answer any questions you have. If they can’t, they’ll be able to help you find the answer.

Does your child see a speech therapist, or receive special education services? Other members of your child’s team, outside of your child’s medical provider, can also be a good place to go for info on autism; however, they might not be able to give much information beyond their area of expertise. A speech therapist might only have information about communication difficulties on the autism spectrum, and a special education teacher will likely only be able to speak about educational impact. Like your child’s medical provider, they will be able to help you find the information you need if they don’t know the answers themselves.

Major children’s hospitals

Major children’s hospitals are also a good place to find information on autism. Many of them offer classes and seminars for parents of children with autism, or at the very least, have information about such events in the community. You can also use their websites as a good starting point for online research about the autism spectrum. The websites might offer information about local resources, or even just info about autism in general.

Other parents

It’s easy to feel very alone when you first learn: my child has autism. As you get your child set up with therapy appointments, or special education services, you will meet many other parents who also have a child with autism. These parents can be a wealth of information on autism and parenting a child with autism because they are living it, just like you. You might meet in the waiting room of your child’s occupational therapist, or at a class party, or a social media group. However you meet, it's important to keep in mind that their child is not your child, and their experience while informative might not be an exact match for your experience. The most useful types of info about autism you might receive from other parents would include the names of doctors and therapists they’ve found to be particularly good, the inside scoop on your local school district, and helpful books on autism symptoms.

Local library

Speaking of books, there are tons of books with great information on autism and parenting an autistic child. There are even more books about how to address your child’s specific needs, such as communication or managing emotions. These books can be very useful sources of info about autism signs, but how do you know which books are really worth purchasing and adding to your collection? Your local library will likely have many of these books available. Use their resources to determine which ones you only want to read once before returning to the library, and others you may find so valuable you want to add them to your home library. Many libraries also have book-sharing programs with other libraries. If there’s a book you are looking for that your library doesn’t have, there’s a good chance your librarian can help you get it.

The Internet

The Internet has a vast array of information on just about everything, and the autism spectrum is no exception. Be mindful about the sources you use to find info on autism, as you would with anything else you source on the Internet. There are plenty of excellent websites that will give you fantastic information. Other websites have great information but have their own biases you should take into consideration. For example, they might not present certain types of autism research if it doesn't support their personal stance on controversial issues. Incidentally, the Internet is also a great place to find other parents of autistic children. Facebook has a number of groups focused in local areas dedicated to parenting children with special needs including.

Autism can be a scary diagnosis because so much is unknown. Fortunately, lots of info on autism does exist, if you know where to look. This information can be very valuable on your journey of helping your autistic child. Just remember, once you begin sourcing information, it’s always a good idea to check in with your child’s medical provider before changing care plans, or if you have questions about information you've found on your own. If you don’t agree with your child’s doctor, you can always get a second opinion!