In life, moments of deep pain show us who we are. I would love to protect my daughter from everything and make sure that she never experiences pain, but that would be limiting her life and ability to grow as a person. To quote the Bible ‘When He has tested me I shall come forth as gold.’ – Job 23:10.
In life, there will be painful experiences, so I want to make sure that she has the confidence to learn and grow from those situations. For example, bullying happens in school, work and even life, so it’s important to me to teach my daughter that she is loved. Here are 6 ways to make sure your child with autism feels loved:
1. Give them time to be the boss
They are working so hard in school, and you might be doing more work with them at home. They are continually being “taught”…give them time to be the boss. When my daughter was very young, I started this on walks in the neighborhood with her…I would tell her “You’re the boss applesauce” we would go where ever she wanted to walk to…even if that was to turn around and go straight home. I showed her that I had confidence in her ability to lead and hopefully she will carry that lesson with her throughout her life.
2. Show affection
This might be hard in the beginning if your child is very withdrawn, but this is vital to do. Figure out what works best for your child…kiss, hug, air kisses, high five…those can be modified if it’s hard to connect initially. For example, if your child loves to spin…spin with them and then hug. Yes, all of those examples require their participation. If they’re not up to that yet, you can gently pat their head, lightly stroke their cheek, rub their back or just hold hands. Actions speak louder than words.
3. Give them choices
This will help their confidence and create ownership for their decisions. So if you’re at the park instead of telling them, it’s time to go give them a choice…do they want to go now or in 5 minutes? You’re empowering them by giving them choices.
4. Give them the time and space to do things on their own…even if it takes longer
If you want your child to experience independence, then you have to give them space to learn on their own. With autism “learned helplessness” is a problem. Our children can actually learn to be helpless by very meaningful people who want to do everything for our children. As your child learns to do things give them the space to do them…whether it’s done right or wrong. Let them gain confidence in doing things and feel loved and trusted by you.
5. Let them see you fail at something
Imagine what it’s like for them to continually have to work so much harder than most other children. They might think that they are the only ones working hard at things that come so quickly to others. Let them see you work and fail at something so that they learn first-hand that you work hard and not to give up easily.
We all make mistakes so say you’re sorry. Think about the last time someone wronged you. If they didn’t apologize, you might still feel hurt or angry. Now think about the last time someone apologized to you. How’d you feel? Respected, loved, appreciated, valued. When you make a mistake with your child apologize, so they learn what it feels like to be respected, loved, appreciated, and valued after being hurt. They will learn from that contrast.