Introducing a new member to the family always entails a mix of emotions. Children might find it difficult to adjust to sudden changes and adjustments in their daily routine, especially in the case of an autistic child. Based on the child’s functioning level and the unique traits associated with his or her Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the reaction may or may not be intense. Considerable attention and support must be there to aid the child to understand and cope with the dramatic change in life.
Before the baby is born, parents need to take care of important matters in time, in order to avoid any possible issues and be as prepared as possible. The availability of the parents, usual rules, the caregivers- they will all be changed according to the newborn’s needs. This will potentially confuse and upset the elder sibling, as they are used to a certain way of living within the given structure. Parents should talk them through the process of pregnancy and consequent matters.
Here are some methods that can be employed to prepare the autistic child for their new sibling:
- Talk about the baby
Your child needs to understand that there is no set rule with a baby, so you need to- in clear and simple words- establish a general idea for them to grasp. You can use audio and video tools to show your child what a baby is, and what they bring to the table. Draw pictures of a family, or show photos with members growing. Introduce your child to families with newborns. Watching them interact with their baby might get your child intrigued, and help them understand the gist of what’s to be expected.
- Guide your autistic child
A child needs to be familiar with the concept of a baby around. You can carry a doll, demonstrating the basic needs that will have to be taken care of. Make sure to teach your child (with the doll) to comprehend and comply with words, such as “stop” and “gently” etc. Educate them on caring for the baby with praises and meaningful rewards.
Instead of isolating the baby from their elder sibling, inclusion would be a better method. Let your child practice helping with the baby. It can include getting diapers, or folding clothes and blankets, etc.
Your baby might take up most of your time, due to which you may not be able to help your autistic child as much as before. In moments like these, it is advised that you help your child get used to alternative caregivers. For them to be comfortable with others, visit family members and/or friends who would be able to help out in the future.
You can also teach them self-help when it comes to clothing, food and washing up. This way the child isn’t too dependent on or helpless without you.
- Spend time with your child
Newborns are exhausting, to say the least, and may take up much of your time. However, don’t let that neglect your eldest child. Get help from family or hire a babysitter if need be. You need to share enough of your time with both children. Indulge in your autistic child’s interests, telling stories and asking them about their day. Even if you can spare thirty minutes, it’s enough for your child to feel loved and important.
- Autism Support
In cases where you aren’t able to handle your autistic child’s aggressive behaviour, it is advisable to seek help from professionals in time. You can either look for help online for “respite services,” or get in touch with inclusion centres such as Small Steps Big Dreams in Dubai, UAE. Such centres offer ABA therapy as part of their autism therapy, which is considered one of the most important techniques of autism treatment. Your autistic child will be kept occupied (whether at the centre or by a personal caretaker), lessening your workload.
As your family grows, change and adjustment are included as a package deal; being an even bigger challenge with an autistic child. It’s easy to lose yourself in the endless list of tasks that need to be accomplished. You might overlook how your child with autism is responding to new sensory experiences. It needn’t be a hassle, though- you can plan out the issues and questions anticipated. Prepare your child for the new baby and the exciting role as an elder sibling.