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Train up a Child: Parenting Autistic Children: A Guide for Dads on the Spectrum

Authors: Dr. Stephanie Holmes

What we have seen in our coaching practice is that at least half of the marriage struggles we work with are over parenting differences in a NeuroDiverse couple, especially if there is one or more neurodiverse children.

In the Christian faith we see rigidity over rules and discipline that may not allow for the developmental stages biologically a child is at, much less where that child may be developmentally with various challenges if they have a developmental difference or disability. Part of "training up a child" is knowing where that child is and what that child needs. If you are also a parent on the spectrum, understanding your stressors and developing a good co-parenting strategy is key not only to training up a child, but a strong partnership as parents in marriage.

Parenting is a beautiful journey that comes with its own set of challenges and rewards. When you are a man on the autism spectrum and have an autistic child, you may face unique experiences and perspectives in your parenting journey. While every child is different, being on the spectrum yourself can provide you with valuable insights and understanding to help your child thrive. In this blog, we will explore some practical tips and strategies specifically tailored for men on the spectrum who are parenting autistic children.

Embrace Your Unique Perspective:

  • As a man on the autism spectrum, you possess a unique understanding of what it feels like to be autistic. This insight can be a tremendous asset in parenting your autistic child. Embrace your own experiences and use them to build a strong bond with your child. Your empathy, understanding, and ability to relate to their struggles will be invaluable. This is only helpful, if you understand your neurodiversity as well. Know your strengths and limitations. Are your expectations realistic?

Seek Support:

  • Parenting any child can be challenging, and raising an autistic child can bring additional complexities. It's essential to reach out for support when needed. Connect with autism support groups, online communities, and other parents who have shared experiences. Sharing your challenges, triumphs, and insights can provide a much-needed sense of belonging and support. There are now many options for parent coaches. Coaches can help you design strategies and keep you accountable.

Educate Yourself:

  • Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to parenting an autistic child. Educate yourself about autism spectrum disorder, its characteristics, strengths, and challenges. Stay up to date with the latest research and therapies available. By understanding your child's needs better, you can advocate for them effectively and make informed decisions regarding their education, therapy, and overall well-being.

Establish Predictability and Routines:

  • Routine and predictability can be highly beneficial for autistic children. Establish consistent daily routines and schedules to provide stability and help your child navigate their environment. Visual aids, such as calendars and visual schedules, can assist in communicating the daily routine effectively. Working together with your spouse to look through a family system lens on the complexities within the marriage and family to develop strategies that are not solely your neurodiversity focused but system focused.

Communicate Clearly:

  • Clear and concise communication is crucial when interacting with your child. Use simple language, be direct, and avoid figurative expressions or ambiguous instructions. Visual aids, such as social stories or picture cards, can help facilitate communication and improve understanding.

Celebrate Individual Interests and Strengths:

  • Autistic individuals often have intense interests and strengths in specific areas. Encourage and celebrate your child's passions and abilities. Providing opportunities for them to explore their interests can boost their self-esteem and help them develop valuable skills. You may want to point out what is wrong and point out challenging behaviors as one who seeks to correct, but right-spotting is crucial in parenting an autistic child.

Create a Sensory-Friendly Environment:

  • Sensory sensitivities are common among autistic individuals. Create a sensory-friendly environment at home by minimizing sensory overload. Use soft lighting, reduce background noise, and provide a calm and quiet space for your child to retreat to when needed.

Practice Self-Care:

  • Parenting can be demanding, both emotionally and physically. Remember to take care of yourself to be the best parent you can be. Allocate time for self-care activities that help you recharge and reduce stress. Seek support from your partner, family, or friends, and consider professional therapy or counseling if necessary. Self- care is also about balance. Your spouse needs self-care and alone time. You will need to have the energy and reserve to sometimes take the kids so that your spouse can also have self-care time. Your marriage also needs "care" and importance and should not be neglected in self-care or personal interest and hobbies. Both parents need self-care alone and together as a couple.

Embrace Flexibility:

  • Parenting an autistic child requires flexibility and adaptability. Be open to trying different strategies and approaches until you find what works best for your child. Remember that every child is unique, and what may work for one may not work for another. Embrace the journey of discovery and growth alongside your child. This may be challenging with your own rigidity, but a good coach can help you. Train up a child means working on the challenging aspects in your life so that you can role model this for your child.

Parenting an autistic child as a man on the spectrum presents its own set of challenges and rewards. By leveraging your unique perspective, seeking support, and continuously educating yourself, you can provide a nurturing environment for your child to thrive. Embrace their individuality, celebrate their strengths, and prioritize self-care to ensure a positive and fulfilling parenting experience.

We recommend Charity and Jeremy Rochford for parent coaching. Check them out on the referrals page and check out any groups they may be offering this fall for parents of neurodiverse children.

Our family is writing a book about our NeuroDiverse family to discuss more of our parenting and marriage journey with a NeuroDiverse family system. More details to come on the book release date!

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