April 2nd is designated as World Autism Awareness Day, and it’s the perfect time to provide a few helpful tips to those who have adopted or are considering adopting a childwith Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
This environment of unpredictability and change is quite scary for any child, especially for ASD children.How can parents help their child adapt comfortably to a new home environment? Below are a few tips to help withthetransition:
And no, we don’t mean that you must become likeBill Murray’s character Phil Connors, forever stuck in a loop on Groundhog’s Day. However, developing a daily routine is an integral part of every child’s growth and happiness.This isespecially crucial for foster andadopted children with ASD. Predictability of daily routines can set your child up for success.
A Few Suggestions from Parents of Children with ASD:
Allow older children to be a part of creating their routine. Sit down with them and ask what routines they‘vehad in place in the past. Reinstating old tasks in a new place can be a source of comfort for them.
Write down daily routines on a piece of paper where the child can see them. If the child cannot read, draw or take pictures of them completing each step and post the images on the wall for reference. For example, a morning routine could include pictures of themeating breakfast, brushing theirteeth, and grabbing their backpack for school.
A soft-sounding timer or a visual alarm is a useful cue to begin each daily task. When each step is complete, don’t forget to provide task-specific, positive praise.
Consistency is key! Regular habits and schedules help children with ASD feel connected and safe.
Build Trust and Respect
Aretha Franklin was completely right when she sang “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.” Learning to build an adopted child’s trust and earn their respect is all about learning theirpersonality. This is especially true for children with ASD who often fixate on special interests. Does your child love facts about sharks? Ask them for a new fact each day! Do they love to draw? Have a special space to post their picture of the week. Become engaged and supportive in their interests and do your best to communicate with them in a way they understand.
Oftentimes, children with ASD are literal. Building trust means communicating with them effectively. Sarcasm and jokes often end in confusion and hurt feelings with an ASD child. Learn your child’s way of communicating and expressing their emotions and mimic it. If they are nonverbal, this blog on autismspeaks.org is a great resource for creative ways to communicate with your child.
Patience, Patience, Patience
We’ve all seen the Disney cartoons where Donald Duck’s short-fuse is displayed through his red face rising like a temperature gauge about to burst. By that point, we all know that poor Donald is stressed out because things aren’t going his way. But how do we, as parents, make sure our gauge never reaches those limits?
It’s simple. Start with empathy, not anger. Many adopted ASD children have had to deal with a huge amount of trauma in their lives. Stop and think about the escalating situation and breathe deeply. Ask yourself what you can do to help de-escalate the moment. The most important thing you can do for your child is to remain calm. They look to you as the prime example of how to behave.
If a difficult task is the source of the meltdown, help break down the big obstacle into smaller, more manageable pieces. Always remember, patience and love will go a long way in building a supportive, trust-filled environment for your child.
Self-Care is Essential
There’s a reason why flight attendants always caution passengers to secure their own oxygen masks before assisting others. The concept is simple. If you don’t take the time to care for yourself, you won’t be in any shape to help others. The same concept applies when adopting a special needs child. Take a break to enjoy the simple things.
Below are some ways to relax and indulge in self-care:
Set aside time each day to do the things you enjoy.
Surround yourself with supportive family and friends.
Join a Support Group and interact with them regularly.
Keep a journal and jot down the positive pointsinyour day or moments that made you laugh or smile.
Know Your Resources
Adopting a child with ASD is a truly wonderful experience. It’s important to know that you are not alone in your journey and there are many resources available to you and your family.
*We recognize that all children with ASD have unique needs and personalities. This blog is not intended to be a one-size-fits-all solution, rather an idea generator implemented at the reader’s own discretion. The above tips and suggestions are not provided or reviewed by a medical doctor, and it is always wise to consult a physician before implementing any strategy or advice you read online.
Children in foster care can sometimes feel that they’re unappreciated or ignored. With more than 120,000 children still waiting to be adopted in the U.S., it’s easy to understand why a foster child might at times feel like just a number or a statistic in the eyes of grown-ups.
If you have a foster child, you can prevent these negative feelings by being a more engaged parent or guardian in terms of encouraging creativity. Actively prompting a child’s creativity to come out and play is a good way to make them feel appreciated, help them develop in different ways, and establish an authentic connection with them.
Here are some ways you can provide this positive experience for your own foster child.
Let them continue old traditions or start new ones
In our article on ‘New Year’s Resolutions for Adoptive Families in Florida,’ we touched on the importance of creating new traditions and memories. This is essential for any family to establish authentic bonding experiences. And letting your foster child take the reins not only shows trust, but also presents an opportunity for their creative side to shine.
Ask your child about the traditions passed onto them by their birth parents and prior foster families. Which of these traditions would they like to keep in your family? How does it go and what do you need to uphold it? Better yet, do they want to start traditions of their own? Apart from encouraging creativity, this can also allow you to establish a love language that is truly yours and your child’s.
Learn something new together
Don’t just take your child to a pottery or painting lesson. Sit down and learn alongside them. Don’t just complete school projects for them. Instead, try to help them by steering them towards squeezing their own creative juices. You can even learn new yoga poses together. You might be surprised at how simply learning alongside your foster child can encourage them to participate in a more engaged manner.
Alternatively, you can also go to any of YouTube’s different online educational programs and channels for kids so you can learn something new together, but from the comfort and safety of your own home. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of the available technology to encourage your child’s creative side. Technology has its limits and dangers – but it also presents new opportunities for children to grow.
Pick educational and inspirational video games for them
While there’s no doubt that many games are bad for kids, it’s important to remember that some games are actually educational and aimed at inspiring creativity. Such is the case with games like Roller Coaster Tycoon Story, a touchscreen, story-driven game that teaches basic resource management.
Created by Atari and independent game design company Graphite Lab, Roller Coaster Tycoon Story puts players in the shoes of a theme park owner trying to revitalize an old park. Matt Raithel who is the owner and director of Graphite Lab based the game’s visuals on the iconic Six Flags rides in St. Louis, Missouri. And through the help of local narrative design firm Brunette Games, Raithel’s team fleshed out 30,000 lines of the story that holds the game together. “I really wanted St. Louis to have a big stamp on this game,” explains Raithel who also teaches game design courses on the online digital media degree program at Maryville University in St. Louis. By teaching the fundamentals of digital media creation to students at Maryville University and creating games incorporating St. Louis through Graphite Lab, he hopes to foster video game creation in the area.
Roller Coaster Tycoon Story is part of this overall effort. It’s literally a game that’s designed to inspire creativity in the local youth. While these educational and inspiring games may be rare, finding them can give you a way to connect with your foster child in a way that’s undeniably engaging to a child. Tell them about what the game represents and let them discuss what they like or don’t like about the game.
Encouraging creativity is not that difficult. Embracing new technologies can make it even easier. And so can simply joining your foster child in new activities. The more you can encourage your child’s creative side, the more you can look forward to creating new family traditions and memories.
The Holiday Season is officially here! We’re all in that same state of frenzy and joy, as we wrap up our gifts and our work, and look forward to several days spent with family and friends (either in-person or virtually). While the holidays are something that most of us look forward to, it’s important to remember that they’re always easy for everyone, especially children in foster care.
Put yourself in the shoes of a child living with a foster family. They may wake up on Christmas morning and find themselves surrounded by people who might still feel like strangers to them. They may hear everyone talking about how joyful it is to spend time with family during the holidays, only to realize that they won’t be spending it with their family.
Maybe the child feels rather comfortable with their foster family. That’s great. But they may also be feeling some guilt around this time of year. It’s not uncommon for children who are thriving in their foster situation to struggle with balancing their loyalty to their birth family and the joy they’re experiencing with their foster family. This struggle may cause the child to experience both grief and anxiety, and to feel like they are betraying their birth parents or another member of their biological family.
As Florida adoption and foster care professionals, we always recommend that if you have a foster child in your home it would be best to confront these issues as soon as possible. You’ll want to sit down and talk with the child about what they’re experiencing and what the holidays will look like in your home, just so there are no surprises.
Tips for Talking With Your Foster Child About The Holidays:
Explain how you celebrate the holidays. It may be vastly different than what they’ve experienced in the past.
Ask your foster child about their past experiences with the holiday and try to include some of their family traditions in your celebration.
Remember, it is possible that your foster child has never fully celebrated this holiday before. Take some time to explain what’s going on and how they can be a part of the celebration.
Make sure you talk with your foster child about who is visiting for the holidays and prepare them as much as possible. It’s intimidating enough being in a foster home, imagine how strange it is to meet dozens of strangers all at once.
If your foster child is showing signs of anxiety, guilt, or depression; just try to connect with them and talk. Recognize the situation that they’re in, listen to them as best you can, and give them the space they need, when they need it.
So, as you prepare for the holidays, talk with your foster child about what they’re feeling and experiencing during this time of the year. Also, talk with your friends and family and remind them that you have a foster child in the house. It might cause them to bring that extra present or to jot down the child’s name. Little things like that will help your foster child feel completely included in your holiday celebrations.
My favorite time of the year is upon us. Christmas, and the holiday season. Our family just put up our Christmas tree; our biggest yet. A 13 foot tree, filled with lights and home made ornaments. Like every year, the children in our home put up most of the ornaments and lights, while my wife and I helped the little ones. It was a magical day to start off a joyous time of year. There was much laughter, music, and excitement. Yet, for two little girls in our home, it was a time of confusion, and even some anxiety. You see, for these two little girls, placed in our homes from foster care five months earlier, it was there first experience with Christmas, and they were full of questions.
So many dates on the calendar, so many reasons to celebrate, so many different ways. Christmas, Hanukah, New Years, Kwanzaa; these are times that can be extremely difficult for many foster children. During this time of Holiday Cheer, many foster children are faced with the realization that they will not be “home for the holidays,” with their biological family members. When they wake up Christmas morning, and are surrounded by people who just may be strangers to them, strangers who are laughing and having fun, it can be a very difficult time for them, indeed. To be sure, it is a day that is a stark reminder to these children that they are not with their own family. It is during the holidays when families are supposed to be together, yet these children in care are not. They are not with their families, and they may not know when they will see them next. Indeed, this can be a very emotionally stressful time for all involved.
Foster parents can best help their foster child by spending some time and talking about the holiday. Perhaps the holiday being celebrated in their new home is one that their birth family never celebrated, or is a holiday that is unfamiliar with them. Let the foster child know how your family celebrates the holiday, what traditions your family celebrate, and include the child in it. Ask your foster child about some of the traditions that his family had, and try to include some of them into your own home during the holiday. This will help him not only feel more comfortable in your own home during this time, but also remind him that he is important, and that his birth family is important, as well. Even if his traditions are ones that you do not celebrate in your own home, try to include some of his into your own holiday celebration, in some way and some fashion.
More than likely, your foster child will have feelings of sadness and grief, as he is separated from his own family during this time of family celebration. After all, he is separated from his family during a time that is supposed to be centered around family. However much you provide for him, however much love you give to him, you are still not his family. Like so many children in foster care, they want to go home, to live with their family members, despite the abuse and trauma they may have suffered from them, and despite all that you can and do offer and provide for him. Therefore, this time of holiday joy is especially difficult.
There are a number of other ways foster parents can help the children place in their home during this time of year, as well as reach out and help the birth families of these children. This IS the season of giving, and we are all called to give unto others. With a little preparation beforehand from you, this season of joy can be a wonderful time for your foster child, one that may last in his memory for a life time, as well as in your memory, too. After all, the gift of love is one that can be shared, not only during the holidays, but all year long, with the child, with the family, and with all we meet. May you experience this joy and may you share it with others.
Imagine, if you will, being taken away from your mother and your father, without any warning at all. Imagine being taken away from your siblings, your pets, your stuffed animals and toys. Imagine being taken away from your bedroom, house, yard, and neighborhood. Imagine, too, being taken from all of your relatives, friends, classmates, and everything you knew. In addition, after all of this, imagine if you were suddenly thrust into a strange house, with strangers, and informed that this was your new home and new family for the time being. How might you feel? For thousands upon thousands of children each year, this is not imagination, this is reality; and the reality is one that is full of questions, full of fears, and full of trauma.