Thursday, March 3, 2011

Parenting Children: 5 Tips on Helping Deescalate Autistic Children

Parenting children with special needs often feels like a roller coaster ride: there are the slow climbs and the times when you look around at the top, admiring the world around you. Then there are those moments where you hang on by your canines, gripping the sides of the car with ferocious intensity.

It's frustrating to work with your child for hours and days and weeks, finally see progress, only to watch your child seemingly slip back to the same spot where they began. Here are some tips you can keep handy that will help you get through it the next time around:

1) Try and remember that all children's development consists of highs and lows.

Placid and peaceful one year olds turn into driven and conflicted two year olds. The calm, reflective six- year old rushes headlong into the moody, withdrawn seven year old. And the cheerful, happy go lucky ten year old transforms herself into a conflicted, on-the-verge-of-puberty eleven year old.

Remember to pay less attention to your child's physical age than their developmental age. This can be tricky because a 10 year old that acts like the wild, independent four year old is often hard for parents to accept emotionally even though intellectually they know it to be true.

2) Pay attention to the warning signs.

While it's natural for children to experience ups and downs, this doesn't mean you shouldn't keep an eye on your child's behavior. While it may seem pessimistic, it is in fact realistic to prepare yourself for a down turn.

Examine the last few times your child's behavior escalated. How did they react to regular stressors? Were they crankier? Did their sleep patterns become suddenly more erratic? Were they upset about things that usually don't bother them?

3) Avoid the ostrich syndrome.

Often it's hard for parents to accept emotionally that their child is about to lose it. It feels easier to ignore things: even though you know the problem won't go away, at least you'll have some time until you have to deal with what will undoubtedly be a less than fulfilling experience.

Instead, reframe the experience. Instead of assuming that you can do nothing to help the situation (other than damage control), take a proactive stance. Don't assume your child's behavior is the same as it always is a these times, because it isn't. If you examine the situation carefully, you will undoubtedly see several critical differences.

Use this information to reexamine the world from your child's point of view. What is the purpose of this behavior? What are they trying - albeit ineffectively- to achieve? Independence? Some children suddenly get frustrated with their capabilities and go haywire. Peace and quiet? Maybe their environment is too stressful.

Always consider what your child gains from their maladaptive behavior, and try and find a way to teach them or give them what they need.

4) Consider alternative medicine.

There are numerous treatments you can provide for your child that will help her get over this hump. Herbal remedies (check with your doctor or complementary medicine practitioner first) can often make a surprising difference. For example, passiflora with a bit of lobelia are wonderful for helping kids calm down, and lavender underneath a pillow or in a satchet near the bed helps induce restful sleep.

Other options such as massage or acupuncture can also provide relief. These are things that can be done as you need them; you don't need to commit to regular treatments in order to see good results.

5) Take time out for yourself.

After all is said and done, your home and your family will only function as well as you do. In fact, studies show that a mother's emotional and physical health are the critical factors in whether or not a family under stress survives.

Whether it's a night away with your husband at a luxurious hotel, or a luscious Swiss chocolate candy bar enjoyed from the confines of your closet, give yourself permission to jump out of the driver's seat every once in a while.

Had enough of parenting children who tantrum, backtalk, and engage in endless power struggles?

END misbehavior now.

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