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Parenting with autism: no guilt zone

By Maxine and Daniel

Are you constantly nagging your child to get moving? Yelling at her for ignoring you? Does he seem to dig his heels in and refuse to respond in spite of repeated demands?

Before I tell you possible autism-related reasons, raise your right hand and take the oath: "I will not feel guilty for things I did not know before today."

OK. Here goes. Our toddlers, children, teens and young adults often need more time than a typical person to process our commands or requests, or to respond to something they are experiencing. The rule of thumb is to allow several seconds for the communication to sink in (read: be processed so he/she can respond).

This stuff is real, folks. Autism is a processing disorder and however long your child needs to run your information through his brain, he needs.

Interrupt the processing at your peril. The processing time will start all over This is when she looks likes she is willfully ignoring. It's also when parents' tempers can start to flare.

Yikes! Yell, and we risk adding anxiety to the mix. When that happens, we may have kids who meltdown (cry, become aggressive, or freeze). Essentially, we shoot ourselves in the foot.

I'm not making this up:

The College of Family Physicians of Canada, in reviewing the DSM-V and developing a family doctor approach to autism, recommends that parents be informed about the issue of processing speed That's how legitimate this is:

"Remind (parents) that children with ASD might have difficulties processing sensory input; (they) must be patient and allow at least 10 seconds for a response to occur."

It's not easy to change our own communication style or to be calm when we are pressed for time in the choas of the morning routine or some other comittment.

However, learning ways to help our child feel competent in consideration of his processing speed promises to ultimately speed things up.