The way that autism affects children really ranges from slight to severe. We should always remember that every autistic child is an individual and the way they react to situations will be different from one child to another. Here are some ideas for how to show affection to your autistic child. Remember, though, your experience may will be unique to you child and the situation.
- Use Trial and Error. In the case of children with more severe autism, even a simple hug can be too much for them. If they are touched without prior warning they may become agitated, upset and even violent. It will probably be best to use a trial and error approach to hugging or even touching your autistic child. They may respond in a positive way to some methods but not to others. It’s just a matter of trying different methods to see how they respond.
- Allow The Child To Come To You. At those times when you think a hug is what your autistic child needs, go slow. Don’t just rush into the child’s personal space without warning and give him a big one. Instead, speak to the him or her, get down to his or her level and hold your arms open. Smile. Let him or her know that you love them and see how they respond. Don’t be offended if they don’t come to you for a hug. Maybe the problem was just that the timing was not right for the child.
- Try Hand Signals And Positive Reinforcement. Some children are too sensitive to show affection with hugs or touches. Hand signals and positive reinforcement is one thing you can try. Hand signals like a thumbs up, together with some positive remarks and a smile, can show the child that he or she is loved and that you think that what they did was good. Keeping in mind what was said above, this might be a good time to offer a hug. It may be that they will take you up on it.
- Try To Get Everyone On The Same Page. Sometimes people who don’t know or understand how your child responds to attempts to show affection can damage the progress you have started to make with your autistic child. You, the parents, may have started to make progress toward helping your autistic child to accept and show more affection, but then a brother or sister, a friend, or a teacher or grandparent may set things back by not understanding your child’s boundaries. If you are trying to implement a program to help your autistic child with demonstrations of affection, you should also try to see to it that all of the people who might try to touch or to hug him or her know the rules. Repitition is very important to autistic children and for people to behave consistency with them is crucial. This applies to situations involving showing affection, as well other areas.
Learning to live with and deal with a complicated and confusing condition like autism will be a tremendous challenge – one that takes a lifetime. The issue of how the child responds to affection may be be the biggest and hardest to deal with for many parents. With patience, and by learning to recognize and be guided by the child’s cues and not your own, you will be able establish deep and meaningful connection with your child.