Do you suspect your child might have autism, but you’re not sure? While only a professional diagnosis can tell you for sure, there are many ways you can support your child while you get a diagnosis and create a plan.
Here are some of the best ways to support a child you think might have autism.
- Try a variety of therapies
While you’re in the process of getting a formal diagnosis, start trying different therapies with your child to see if anything resonates with your child. Every child with autism is different, so what works for one person may not work for another. There are several types of therapy you can try that are low-cost or free, including play therapy, speech therapy, floortime, ABA therapy, and more.
Although your child will need a formal Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis to get ABA therapy, it’s worth noting that once you have a diagnosis, you can get in-home therapy, which will make things easier on you and your child. Organizations like Golden Care Therapy in New Jersey will send an ABA therapist to your home to work with your child in their own environment. Getting in-home therapy will reduce the stress your child may feel from being in a new and unfamiliar place.
The more therapies you try, the better chance you have of getting a head start in supporting your child, whether or not they get diagnosed with autism.
- Get your child some sensory toys
Kids with autism need to stim, which is just a fancy way of saying they need something to stimulate their senses in a way that allows them to mitigate and disburse the sensory overload they’re feeling. Without toys, kids will find ways to stim using just their bodies and their surroundings, but toys can be extremely helpful and less damaging depending on your child.
Every child is different, so it might take a bit to find toys they like. However, you can find some excellent suggestions from The Aspie World on YouTube. Some toys spin, squish, make noise, or are a series of magnets that can be reshaped. If your child is already fixated on certain types of toys, try to find something that matches their existing interest. For example, if they like soft textures, find some plush toys with a velvety-smooth texture. Try all types of toys to see if they help your child.
- Seek a professional diagnosis
Getting a professional diagnosis is the best way you can support your child when you think they might have autism. Once you have a diagnosis, that opens the door to getting services that will help them immensely. Not just while they’re young, but it will help them in their adult life, too. For example, if your child moves out on their own, and they struggle with self-care and household chores, they’ll need a professional diagnosis to get in-home services from the state.
A professional diagnosis will tell you if your child is on the autism spectrum, or if they have a different disorder. Depending on the therapist you choose, they’ll likely be able to diagnose your child with any relevant comorbidities, which are common with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
- Learn about autism
Next to getting your child professionally diagnosed, learning about autism will help you support your child in many ways. There are many misconceptions about autism that can make it hard to spot the signs of autism. One of the best people to learn from is Tony Attwood. He’s considered the leading expert on Autism Spectrum Disorder and is extremely knowledgeable.
One of the most important things you can learn from Attwood is how to spot Autism in girls. For various reasons, it’s harder to spot autism in girls and some girls don’t get diagnosed until they’re in their 40s. Attwood gave an excellent talk about Asperger’s in girls back in 2015, and you’ll learn a lot from this speech.
Although Attwood’s speech focuses on Asperger’s, it is part of the autism spectrum. As a diagnosis, Asperger’s has been officially merged into the diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder.
Support your child in every way you can
When you suspect your child might have autism, it’s important to support them in every way possible. While you’re seeking a professional diagnosis, start trying simple solutions, like play therapy and toys for stimming. See how they respond. Once you get a diagnosis, your child’s therapist will suggest next steps to help your child long-term.
The Subtle Cues in Our Environment that Encourage Healthier Living
The choices we make each day regarding our diet, activity and lifestyle habits ultimately determine our health and wellbeing. Nonetheless, the surroundings we inhabit also actively influence those decisions, whether we realize it or not. Our built environment contains many subtle cues that either promote or impede healthy behaviors. With thoughtful awareness, we can leverage and shape these cues to nudge ourselves toward more positive choices.
Architectural Cues for Active Living
Urban design and infrastructure elements play a major role in our activity levels. Visible, accessible staircases encourage climbing over passive elevator use. Features like centrally located, attractive stairwells bathed in natural light make stairs hard to ignore. Artwork beautifies the ascent while music enlivens acoustics. Placing stairwells near prominent gathering areas also maximizes exposure and use. Conversely, hidden dreary stairwells discourage climbing. Building layouts should make stairways the default for short trips. Thoughtful design embeds activity into daily routines.
Outside, continuous sidewalks and protected bike lanes provide clear cues that active transit is safe and expected. Ample parking signals driving is preferable. Traffic calming measures like speed humps and narrowed lanes imprint mental cautions for vehicles to accommodate bikes and pedestrians. Sidewalk street furniture and plantings buffer walkers from traffic. Crosswalks, pedestrian signals, and refuge islands imprint rights of way. Complete Streets redesign allocates fair space for diverse safe use. Our infrastructure surroundings can literally pave the path for active living.
Office and Home Cues
Subtle factors within buildings also affect activity and diet. Kitchen placement, for instance, affects our choices. Research shows open concept kitchens integrated into living areas encourage more healthful cooking and family meals than closed off kitchens. Islands and open shelving provide visual snack cues that can either prompt cravings or showcase fruits, nuts, and other healthy grabs. Kitchens sited near entries or offices also maximize visibility and food prep use rather than distant basement kitchens.
At offices, centrally located shared spaces like break rooms, cafes and snack nooks encourage communal meals, informal gatherings and refueling walks to retrieve snacks. Providing showers, bike racks and lockers signals active commuting is valued. Standing and treadmill desks prompt movement during sedentary work, while choice architecture guides selections from communal food areas. Simple environmental adjustments nudge better decisions.
Nutritional Cues at Markets and Restaurants
Eateries and markets harbor cues that stimulate cravings along with willpower depletion. Certain lighting, music, and décor stimulate overindulgence. Cues that unconsciously hurry patrons undermine reasoned decisions. Scented air surrounding baked goods stalls awakens salivation and desire. Strategic menu design also sways choices. Listing unhealthy items first or at eye level suppresses willpower. Descriptive names romanticize less healthy options. Menu formatting can also highlight nutritious dishes and portion guidance. Markets use product placement for maximizing impulse grabs. Though subtle, environmental exposures across stores and eateries significantly sway our eating choices.
Cues for Hydration and Rest
Proper hydration and sleep are imperative for our wellbeing but are easily overlooked when immersed in urban settings and schedules. Environmental design can combat these gaps through strategic cues. Plentiful public water fountains provide visual refreshment reminders throughout cities, while placing restrooms near fountains links the hydration notion. Cafes position chilled water dispensers up front for thirst-quenching without calories. Homes and offices forget hydration less with decorative pitchers and glasses on tables. Lighting design is key for sleep cues. Dimming lights in workplaces and warm home lighting provide visual preparation for rest. Cool-toned blue hues stimulate and signal awakening. Our surroundings can cue us to drink and sleep wisely.
Signage and Sensory Cues
Explicit signs offer direct visual cues to healthier behaviors – such as a no smoking sign that prompts at entrances. Staircases could feature plaques tallying burned calories. Cafeterias may display encouragements to take smaller portions or try vegetable sides. Signs foster mindfulness and restraint at choice points. Sensory cues also guide behaviors. Smells eliciting happiness or calm can de-stress environments. Soothing natural sounds and music relax tense settings. Harsh lighting and noise stimulate frenetic energy and impulsiveness. Pleasant sensory experiences invite more mindful, deliberate choices. Uplifting cues infuse healthy messaging into spaces.
Art and Nature Cues for Wellbeing
Artwork carrying uplifting themes or depicting healthy activities, fruits and vegetables, serene nature and joyful gatherings infuses visual positivity into surroundings. Murals and wall graphics remind us what truly matters for wellbeing. Images are digestible in passing, sinking into the subconscious. Vibrant, thriving plants and greenery provide natural visual relief and comfort that lower stress. Decor mimicking natural materials brings warmer textures. Spatial flow mimicking nature’s curves calms minds. Natural light and windows boost mentality and sleep cycle regulation. Thoughtful touches of art and nature foster mental balance, positivity, and healthy choices.
Our everyday surroundings contain many subtle influences on our diet, activity, sleep, and lifestyle, either promoting or hindering health. But heightened awareness of these cues allows us to consciously reshape environments for encouraging wiser choices. Simple changes to architecture, office layouts, signage, lighting, art, and nature contact encourage movement, nutrition, and wellbeing. Our minds absorb ambient cues, so design wisely. When supportive healthy cues surround us, positive habits become a little easier, more inviting, and purposeful. Think about cues you could shift for better living. Small nudges in public spaces and our homes can guide us all toward healthier, more thoughtful lives.
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