Being autistic we see the world differently. Seeing the world differently can be an incredible gift. As a parent, all I want is to Help my Autistic child cope in a neurotypical world. For some autistic people fitting into a neurotypical world is not something they ever want to do. We want to be accepted for who we are and not pretend to be something we’re not. There are however some people who want to fit into a neurotypical world for many different reasons. Fitting in and coping are 2 different things entirely and coping is often a necessity.
Here are 5 tips I’ve found for helping my autistic child cope in a neurotypical world. Hopefully, they can help you too!
Build Up Exposure
Take everything one step at a time. The world can be a busy and noisy place. If your child can’t cope in certain places try to build up their exposure gradually. If you are planning for a certain event then do it in small steps. I’m going to use my own child as an example here.
Jamie is very sensitive to noise. Being sensitive to noise causes issues when accessing education. To overcome this we used their favorite place (Wetherspoons).
Jamie wears in-ear headphones and listens to music as a strategy for noise sensitivity. We started by going into Wetherspoons with their music on at quiet times for a drink. Whilst we increased the time we spent in Wetherspoons and went at slightly busier times we reduced the time Jamie wore their headphones. Jamie can now go to Wetherspoons (still at quieter times) without the need for any noise coping strategies. This has really helped when dealing with noise in the classroom.
Autism Friendly Places
A great way to get your child used to places is by finding places that are autism-friendly. You can find a list of autism-friendly award holders on the national autistic society website or the autism directory but there are many more.
Check places locally to you for autistic cinema screenings, soft play sessions, library sessions even holidays! Autism-friendly places aren’t just brilliant for accessing the world but you will often meet people who are experiencing the same things that you do. The autism community is an amazing place and you can make some amazing friends for both yourself and your child.
There are lots of shops doing autism-friendly shopping hours. Whilst they aren’t always the most convenient times (usually early morning) they are a great way to build up and get used to shopping experiences.
Again (usually early morning) places like trampoline parks and museums do quiet hours so that they are more accessible. It’s worth searching locally to see what is available to you. Don’t forget to ask if they have any discounts for carers as lots of places carers even get in free!
Stimming is something we do to calm our sensory system when we are overwhelmed by the environment. Stimming is very important and something you shouldn’t try to stop. Stimming can help us to avoid a meltdown or cope in difficult situations.
In our house, we have a “grab bag” of sensory products that we take with us whenever we leave the house. This includes headphones, sunglasses, fidget toys, Chewigems, teddy bears and perfume. That way we are ready for anything we may encounter. When you are out and about don’t be afraid to take sensory breaks. These are really helpful when things become too overwhelming.
Be Aware Of Limitations
The most important part of trying to cope in a neurotypical world is knowing your child’s limits. If your child has had too much then remove them from the situation and take them somewhere calm where they can regulate. If you push too much too fast you will fail. Good experiences leave good associations. Bad experiences cause anxiety and fear.
You may be sat thinking “it’s easier just to avoid the world altogether” and that is completely understandable. However, can you really avoid everything in life? There are hacks to most things in life and these are ours for surviving the NT world. Take it slowly, plan where you’re going and when. Be prepared and take helpful sensory products with you and most of all don’t try too much too fast. But trying some of these things out will help your child cope in a neurotypical world.