I loved my daughter before she was even born. I made a promise to do everything I could to make her life as promising as I could. Once we received her autism diagnosis, this promise didn’t change. We changed a lot for her: any accommodation that could make her life easier we did. So, as a dedicated and exhausted mother, I want to share with you some of the things that helped my daughter that might help you.

Learn as Much as You Can

The first thing I would suggest is to learn as much as you can. That being said, make sure that you’re getting your information from sources that are devoted to helping you and are reliable. Trust me, there are some sources out there that are scarier than they are helpful.

The first person you should ask is your child’s doctor. Trained professionals typically know more about the specifics of what they’re diagnosing a child with than speculation that you might see from strangers on the internet.

There are sites you can trust, though! I found organizations such as Autism Speaks and the Autism Society very helpful to learn about what ASD entails.

Find a Schedule That Works for Them

Children with ASD do very well on a schedule. It’s important to find a schedule that works for your child and stick to it. This includes a morning schedule, school if they are old enough, and an afternoon and evening schedule. I can’t stress enough that this schedule should be adhered to.

My mistake initially was to have a different schedule for the weekend and throughout the week. I quickly realized that this was difficult and confusing for my daughter, though. This was especially true concerning differing sleeping hours. For example, letting her stay up late and sleep in on the weekends didn’t work out.

Getting & Staying Asleep

On the topic of sleep, bedtime can sometimes be a nightmare. Over time, however, we found a few ways to help her out.

First, is what I just mentioned – the need for a schedule can’t be overstated. Once again, this helps her stay on track and she’s comfortable in knowing what to expect. For bedtime specifically,  the routine starts early with no television or rough play two hours before bedtime. Then, about 30 minutes before bed, we start to brush teeth, read a bedtime story, etc.

Yet, as any parent of an autistic child can tell you, staying asleep through the night is a struggle in and of itself. Our first instinct was to sit with her and stay with her while she slept. It didn’t take long to realize that this wouldn’t help prepare her for the future. It also didn’t take long to realize that it was a great way to tire ourselves out by staying up all night.

One thing that helped us was buying her a weighted blanket. I’d read about them online and heard that they helped keep anxiety down and helped with sensory sensitivity, so I picked one up for her. I wasn’t entirely sure it would work but – to my great relief – it helped her stay comfortable and sleep through the night.

Starting School

I was incredibly nervous as it got closer to her starting school. After all, there I couldn’t control her environment to not cause a sensory overload. I’ll be honest, it was hard at first. It took a while for her to feel comfortable around the other kids and she was easy to agitate. The fluorescent lights, certain textures, and the other kids talking all at once were upsetting.

Since I couldn’t be there to help her every second, I decided it was best to discuss things with the teacher. Luckily, she was a seasoned teacher and had taught another student with ASD in the past. We discussed some of my daughter’s triggers and figured out some ways to help her in the classroom. For example, she created a more rigid schedule for day-to-day learning and used plenty of visuals in her lessons.

This was a big deal to me. To have back up in a teacher willing to make accommodations to help my daughter.

This brings me to the final point. It is exhausting to be a parent to any child, but this can be especially true for cater to a child’s special needs. Remember, you aren’t alone in this. There are resources available to help you and the benefits of a support system can’t be overstated.