Expert ideas for expressing love to your child with autism
This time of year we make sure to express our love for the people closest to us. Each relationship is unique, so communicating love can take several forms. According to Dr. Gary Chapman, author of “The 5 Love Languages®”, everyone expresses and receives love in a unique way. Children with autism are no different!
Expressing love to a child with autism is just as important as expressing love to any other child, although it may require a different approach. They may have trouble showing their feelings, but just like any child, they need to know they are loved.
Showing your love can be as easy as giving them their favorite toy. For other kiddos, it may require months of hard work and exhausting play just to evoke one heartfelt giggle. The most important thing is to find what works for your child and to continue to show your love in a way that is meaningful and special to them.
Below are some tips for expressing love to a child with autism, inspired by the wisdom found in “The 5 Love Languages®” guide. For additional help, reach out to our autism experts. You’ll love what accredited, fun, and caring ABA therapy can do for your child and family!
Tips for Expressing Love to a Child with Autism
Words of Affirmation
Many children with autism are visual learners. They respond more to pictures, videos, and written words than spoken words of affirmation. Consider creating a photo book with pictures of significant memories with your child, along with a few words to describe each memory. They usually take things literally, so take care to say exactly what you mean. Keep in mind children may get easily overwhelmed and only be able to handle one thought or idea at a time. Be patient and keep conversations focused and simple.
Children with autism seek sensory input in a myriad of ways. Some respond well to physical touches, like hugs and holding hands. Often kids with autism need a hug even more than other children. Your child may not like any type of physical touching and find more enjoyment in sensory input from the physical environment around them. Either way, remember to be respectful of their space.
Children receive demands all day long. Get dressed. Clean up. Do this. Do that. It can be a challenge spending time with a child without placing any demands on them. But perhaps this is a gift in disguise and a way to express your love. Intentionally plan for one hour of praise, imitation, attention, and freedom, allowing your child to be exactly who they are in the moment. Find common interests and spend time doing things that your child enjoys. This could be playing games, watching a movie, or going for a walk. Children with autism often thrive on routines and predictability, so incorporate love and affection into their daily routines, like reading a bedtime story or giving a goodnight hug. These shared experiences can help build a strong bond between the two of you and help your child feel loved and secure.
Although a new toy or stuffed animal may be the perfect gift for some kids, there are other options, too. A beautiful gift for any child could be the gift of a new experience. Again, keep their interest and preferences in mind, but some ideas to consider include going to a sensory-friendly movie, baking cookies from scratch, completing a science experiment, visiting an indoor trampoline park or local museum, or exploring the outdoors. Remember your child may see things differently than you do. Ordinary sounds, tastes, touches, smells and sights may be physically painful to your child.
Acts of Service
This is an indirect way of showing your love, but it’s no less impactful. Parents and caregivers of children with special needs spend almost all of their time caring for others. In order to provide the best care for your child, be sure to take care of yourself. It’s OK to take a break. Try scheduling time for self-care. As little as 10 minutes of meditation can revive you. Join parent support groups or ask understanding and trusted family and friends to care for your child so you can recharge.
It may take some effort, but be patient and go out of your way to express how much you love, care, and support your child. When you put in the work, they’ll return the love tenfold in their own special way.
A brighter future is possible for you and your child at The Behavior Exchange. We’re a Behavioral Health Center of Excellence® (BHCOE) with the highest accreditation possible in the field of ABA therapy, the gold standard care for kids with autism. For more than 20 years, we’ve helped children with autism and their families throughout North Texas and Boulder, Colorado reach their full, meaningful potential. Contact our experts today or find an accredited BHCOE provider near you!