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“Autism is part of my child, it’s not everything he is. My child is so much more than a diagnosis”, S. L. Coelho When you have a child with an autistic spectrum disorder, your role, as parent, is to help your child steer their way through this complicated life, ease their discomforts along the way and empower them to be the best they can for themselves. To do this, you are going to have to get to know your child inside out. WATCH AND OBSERVE YOUR CHILD Take some time to really watch your child. What do they do when you are not directing them in any way? Watch their movements, their body language, their facial expressions. Does the activity they choose relax them or appear to agitate them? It is really important that you do not try to change their activity at this point, but just watch and learn. How long does your child do their chosen activity? Do they seem completely in their own world, or are they connected to yours? Is it a quiet activity or a noisy one? Is it an activity they are doing solely on their own (throwing a ball at a wall), or is it an activity including sensory stimulation (computer games, tv, dvds)? JOIN YOUR CHILD

When you join your child in their chosen activity, ensure that it is not one that you have to fight against, for any attention they are able to give (e.g. tv, dvd, video games). These types of activity are just too stimulating to your child, for you to stand a chance! So, get into some comfy clothes, get down on the floor and immerse yourself fully in the activity of your child’s choice. I remember when Emily was younger, cutting up paper and throwing it in the air, was her absolute passion. We did it for hours … days … weeks … months! Take note of what motivates your child – it is the key to their world and the key that will open their world for you.

Imagine your child and you are on a bridge. Your child is one side and you are the other. Your burning desire is to have your child on your side of bridge, in your life, but your child rigidly remains over their side in their world. You could run across the bridge and drag your child, kicking and screaming, to your side and then try to ‘teach’ them things. This will never work – the only thing your child will be focused on is getting back to the safety of their side of the bridge. So, you take the trip across the bridge and gently join them in their world. Join them in their activities, mirror their body language, have fun being a child again yourself and build the relationship in their world. Be predictable, easy for them to be with and then invite them to come with you to your world. Make time every day, to spend with your child in this way and over the next few months, you will really start to see who your child is, what makes them happy, what scares them, what motivates, what is too stimulating for them and how you can easily fit into their dance of autism, empowering you to help your child in the best way possible.

“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way”, Wayne Dyer