5 Ways to Unlock Your Child on the Autism Spectrum's Gifts
“All children are gifted, some just open their packages later than others.” — Unknown
As parents, we play a crucial role in awakening latent talents or developing current strengths through experiences you give your child at home.
However, when you have a child with a disability whose “weaknesses” are obvious, you may wonder how you can see past that and simply focus on bringing the best out of your child.
I remember in my earlier years being a mother raising a child on the autism spectrum. It was not easy to engage with my daughter with her lack of interest in many activities and toys. At best, my daughter’s interests in things were fleeting, each lasting less than a minute before moving on to the next thing.
Despite What the Medical Experts Told Us
Our daughter did not meet many of the typical developmental milestones. She was tested as being on the autism spectrum with high support needs and as having a significant intellectual disability.
We refused to allow the diagnosis to define and limit who she can indeed be. Deep down, we know she is exceptional.
Through persistent efforts of engaging and connecting with our daughter, we eventually found our own unique way to communicate with her. We discovered her amazing talent in spelling, math etc.
Since then, this opened up doors of opportunities, and incredible gifts and talents in her we never thought possible.
How We Helped Our Daughter Unlock Her Special Gifts
1. Accept Your Child as They Are
For a long while, our family life consisted of numerous therapy sessions for our daughter. We worried for my daughter and busied ourselves with a lot of things we thought would improve the chances of her being “all right.”
Children instinctively know if something is wrong. Perhaps my daughter sensed my stress and anxiety over her situation and wondered what was wrong with her. It took me a while to realize the key to helping my daughter was to take a step back, take off the autism label and see the core person inside. I needed to relax and enjoy her childhood.
My daughter wants her mother’s acceptance.
Our acceptance is the first step in helping our child awaken their unique gifts and talents.
2. Observe and Listen
Observe and listen to whatever your child might be telling you about what they like. Show an interest even if it is something that does not interest you, as children do things best in their area of interest.
I remember a period when my daughter had an obsession for Kinder Eggs and loved watching YouTube videos of people unwrapping Kinder Eggs. Following her interests, I collected the plastic eggshells, placed little toys or pictures in them, and wrapped the eggs in aluminum foil.
She was so happy unwrapping these homemade eggs and was also more motivated to name each item she found in the eggs.
3. Expose Your Child to Many Activities and Experiences
It is best not to limit your child to what you are comfortable and familiar with. Try other activities that may or may not be the child’s interest or gift; you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
I was never really an arts and crafts mother, but I try my best to explore creative activities with her.
Despite my initial fear and reservations of taking my daughter to the movies, the experience led to her deep fascination and interest in fairy tales. The outing opened our minds to lots of possibilities.
4. Plan Special Family Trips and Projects
Some of the best success we have had with our daughter are the times our family took on special projects and trips together. We often see such positive change in her growth and development with each time spent engaging and building family bonds.
Many children on the autism spectrum, find it challenging to connect emotionally with others, and this can affect their relationships in a variety of ways. Therefore, we need to teach them the skills needed to form successful relationships.
By creating mindful engagement with our daughter through our special family trips and projects, we are teaching her skills needed to build relationships. She will benefit in situations such as problem-solving, making decisions and socializing with other children.
My daughter never fails to surprise me. I find myself learning something new about her with every family trip and special projects. It allows our family to enjoy and interact with one another meaningfully without the stress and concerns of our daily lives.
On a particular family excursion, my daughter gave me an interesting lesson about the different breeds of sheep on the farm. Who knew she would know so much about sheep?
5. Allow Your Child to Face Failure and Learn From It
Many parents find it difficult to watch their children fail. We want them to succeed in everything they do and the need to rescue them when we see a risk of failure is much built-in to our parenting ways.
Once, I was at a funfair with my children, and my daughter wanted to try out a long and complicated obstacle course. I was reluctant, but she insisted.
Halfway through the course, I heard the loud cries of my daughter. A crowd of children was blocking the pathway, and she was continually pushed aside.
Despite the temptation to “rescue” her, I held back and watched her from afar. Moments after, she pulled herself together and asked for help from an older child.
I was so proud that she completed the obstacle course without her interfering mother.
The experience helped her to find a solution to her problem on her own. It pushed her out of her comfort zone to seek help. It gave her the much-needed confidence to try the obstacle course many times more despite her initial setback.
It also teaches her to trust her intuition and her capabilities. All these become essential steps forward to life-long learning and success.
Back to you: What steps and actions are you doing to help bring the best out of your child?
Getty image by Petr Bonek.