By Shanti Kurada, MS, MBA
- Get him to be physically active. A lot of children on the spectrum are either hyper active or develop sedentary habits. Exercise helps regulate their energy levels and decreases their sensory challenges. You could try going bowling or simply kick around a ball in the backyard. If he doesn’t swim, try a water awareness class. Go for a walk or take his scooter along. Exercise is great for the brain! Exercise helps fight heart decease, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and host of other illnesses. So, get your kid get him moving!
- Get her to eat better. Many ASD children have oral motor issues and fear of new foods, which leads to picky eating. Have lots of fresh fruit and veggies available on the table. Get the rest of the family to eat better and let your ASD child observe. Get her involved in the process of making healthy meals. Remove sugary snacks from the cupboards. Make healthy and easy foods like a pasta with simple ingredients or a refreshing smoothie. Good eating habits will not only promote her physical health and boost her mood, they will also equip her with a lifetime of sensible eating choices.
- Teach him patience. You can model patience by not losing it in tough situations. Is he throwing a tantrum? Is he rigidly adhering to his routine while you are running late for your appointment? Is he making a sensory mess and enjoying it. Stay calm, take a deep breath, and figure out what is the most sensible way to deal with the situation. Your child is constantly absorbing emotions from his environment. You can make a difference to his well being by creating a calm environment, rather than an angry or anxiety-ridden one.
- Give her lots of love. Your child is a child first. It doesn’t matter what her diagnosis is. She deserves your unconditional love. Give her lots of hugs and kisses and if she’s not in the mood for that, show your love through your patience and your faith in her. Love makes every one of us feel stronger and your ASD child is no exception.
- Play with him. For some part of the day, forget his IEP goals, forget the everyday challenges, and forget what the future holds. Just sit down and play with your child. You can tickle him or toss pillows or dance to music or play peek-a-boo. Pick something silly, unstructured, and relaxing. Laughing and relaxed playing releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Laughter decreases stress hormones and promotes better immune function. So, just let your hair down and have fun!