Autism and adoption: helping a child on the spectrum transition to your home.
This was written back when our youngest son first joined our family. I had to take it down because of confidentiality rules while he was still in foster care, but now that he's adopted I wanted to repost. Autistic kids are AMAZING and deserve nurturing, committed foster homes and adoptive families. Hope this post helps someone support their neurodiverse new addition :)
On this blog, I write about what I'm thinking about, and this is life for us right now. We are learning so much about how to help a younger kiddo on the autism spectrum adjust to a new home and family. I think many people are scared at the thought of bringing a person with autism into their family.Ya'll already know that we CELEBRATE disabilities in this house, and I always hope more foster and adoptive families will open their minds and hearts to kids with disabilities. That being said, parenting an autistic child requires a unique approach. Here's what we've learned so far:
1) Find a form of language, even (especially?) a nonverbal form. Behavior is communication. Our new kiddo has a few words (Mama, open, go. So cute!) but primarily uses ASL (American Sign Language) to communicate. He uses around 10 signs regularly. We were able to learn the signs we didn't already know from his former foster parents, and we model the use of ASL daily. We're trying to learn more, and we are also brainstorming ways to utilize picture icon communication. By modeling multiple forms of communication we've been able to help our guy convey what he wants and needs, which decreases challenging behaviors a lot.
2) Respect their need to stim. Autistic individuals often like to stim. Stimming means engaging in a repetitive behavior or motion. Our little boy likes rocking in a rocking chair, bouncing on an exercise ball, and swinging on a swing or hammock.He also sucks his thumb throughout the day. We purchased the rocking chair especially for him and allow him to get plenty of rocking, bouncing and swinging throughout the day. We don't tey to prevent his thumb sucking. He needs his stims to keep his body and emotions regulated, especially during a stressful time of transition. Trying to keep him from stimming to make him act more "normal" (ew) would be ableist and would likely cause a spike in challenging behaviors.
3) Provide a healthy sensory diet throughout the day. Our buddy LOVES messy sensory play. Water, sand, dirt, the touchy-feelier the better. He craves that, and if we don't provide that type of play in a structured way, he gets into things a lot more. We do water play at least twice a day and are working on other sensory play ideas.
4) Adapt your parenting to fit the child they are instead of trying to get them to be the child society wants them to be. This is a good rule to live by with any child, but it's especially important when raising a neurodiverse child. Our society trains us to think that people need to conform in order to have value, and that children who don't fit the mold are less than. Don't cave to the pressure. Autistic kids' brains aren't dysfunctional or deficient, they're fascinatingly unique. Finding ways to play to their strengths will take you further than a "cure the autism" mentality ever will.
We are still learning, but we just feel so lucky to be parenting TWO beautifully neurodiverse children. Kids with disabilities enrich your family and life so much.
Pic: Little guy hanging out in the preschool size Tula carrier. Because being close to Mama and Daddy is his full time job right now while we work on attachment ;)