Tips From Therapist Roland Gomez, AMFT For National Autism Awareness Month
By: Roland Gomez & Alyssa Bombacino
April is National Autism Awareness Month! The goals of this month are to educate youth about their autistic peers, provide informational resources, empower the autism community, and raise money for new research (Organization For Autism Research)
What is autism?
Autism or autism spectrum disorder is associated with a broad range of conditions including “challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, or difficulty with speech and nonverbal communication” (Autism Speaks). Since autism is a spectrum disorder those diagnosed with it can have varying strengths and challenges with learning, thinking and problem-solving. Therefore, individuals with this diagnosis may require different levels of support and care depending on their skill level. Prevalence
- Autism affects 1 in every 44 children in the United States.
- Autism affects 1 in 27 boys, and 1 in 116 girls.
- Boys are 4X more likely to be diagnosed with autism.
JRM&A Therapist, Roland Gomez’s experience working with autism.
Roland has been working with the special needs population for about 8 years. He has spent 4 years doing in-home ABA therapy (Applied Behavior Analysis) and about 4 years working within school settings in special education programs. He is a board certified autism technician, aggressive behavior management expert, registered behavior technician, and currently works as an associate marriage and family therapist. He has worked with many clients who range in terms of diagnosis, but the vast majority have been diagnosed with autism.
Roland Answers Common Questions That Parents Have About Autism.
1.) How do I talk to my friends and family about my child’s diagnosis? It all starts with de-stigmatising special needs and autism. Research information about what a diagnosis means from reputable sources, not social media. There are many resources such as support groups and ABA agencies that can offer the most accurate information about your child’s diagnosis. As a parent, do this research and talk with other parents who have children with special needs to better understand and make yourself aware of your child’s needs. Take this knowledge and share it with your family and friends. Encourage them to ask questions and reach out to resources that are happy to answer your own questions. Encourage friends and family to volunteer for events that promote autism awareness such as your local 5K or city sponsored events where you can work with and alongside the special needs community. Normalize special needs, normalize autism, and spread awareness to those not yet familiar with our special needs communities.
2.) Is it important that my other children understand autism? This is a difficult question because I have found the response differs based on parental perspective. As a professional that has had the opportunity to work with many families with a special needs family member, I have found full transparency to be the best option. It is better for your other children to understand autism from the parental source so that they do not learn about it from incorrect sources. The unfortunate reality is that their peers asking “What’s up with your younger sibling? Why do they always act weird?” will almost certainly happen at some point in their lives. It is better to arm them with the knowledge and confidence to advocate for their siblings and help spread awareness. I have seen countless examples of children being excellent support systems for their autistic siblings. I highly recommend the entire household understand autism for this reason.
Roland’s 10 Tips For Parents of Children With Autism
- Increase your own awareness and education about autism. Take that knowledge and spread it throughout your support system (Family & Friends) so that they too can become advocates for autism awareness.
- Do not focus on what your child CAN’T do, focus on what they CAN do! Learn what your child’s strengths are and maximize those strengths with support and resources.
- Seek out ABA agencies within your network and get services for your child. ABA focuses on teaching fundamental skills for your child to maximize their abilities.
- Do everything in your power to teach independence. Even if it is as simple as teaching your child to dress themselves or feed themselves, remember that they will one day be adults. We want them to have as much capacity to be an independent adult as possible.
- Take them out in the community and teach them about social situations. Take them to a local playground and teach them how to play with other kids. Take them to a restaurant and teach them table manners. Take them to a theater and teach them what behavior in a theater looks like. Take them to events with other special needs kids because they too are almost certainly working on the same skills.
- Your patience must be bigger than your child’s impatience! I cannot stress how important this is. Being a parent of an autistic child comes with many challenges, but never forget what kind of challenge it is for the child. Be patient with them, follow through with behavioral expectations, but always make them feel loved at every turn.
- Learn how to advocate for your child. Learn what types of support your child’s school should be providing, learn what ABA should be doing for your child, and learn how to speak up when their needs are not being met.
- Learn how to manage behaviors. Speak with special education teachers and ABA professionals to understand how you can safely manage and reduce your child’s behaviors.
- Seek out support groups with other parents of special needs children. They’ll understand what you are going through and can offer excellent advice on what does and does not work for their family.
- Seek out support for your own mental health as well. While having a child with autism can feel like your life revolves around them, do not neglect your own mental health. Find a therapist, make your other children feel equally loved, and learn how to keep yourself mentally healthy and happy. Remember, if you are supporting your own wellbeing, it will make you a better supporter for your child.
Organization for Autism Research. (n.d.). Get involved in autism acceptance month! Organization for Autism Research. Retrieved September 8, 2022, from https://researchautism.org/get-involved-in-autism-awareness-month/
Autism Speaks. (n.d.). What is autism? Autism Speaks. Retrieved September 8, 2022, from https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism
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