What Not To Do With An Autistic Child — 6 Parenting Styles to Avoid

You may receive a number of recommendations regarding behaviors that should be avoided when interacting with an autistic child. Every child diagnosed with autism is unique, and over time, you will figure out what treatments are most beneficial for both you and your child.

As you do so, you might want to think about whether or not you might need to adjust your approach to parenting or your natural preferences in order to fulfill your child’s requirements. You might, for instance, have the best of intentions but still engage in parenting styles such as “helicopter parenting,” “hands-off parenting,” or “permissive parenting.” But these and other approaches to child rearing might actually make things more difficult in the long run.

Parenting your autistic child in a way that is effective for them can have additional benefits, in addition to the fact that it will make day-to-day living a little bit easier: It may come to your attention that this encourages the emergence and display of their strengths and abilities.

Find out more about the six different parenting styles and the reasons why they might not be beneficial when it comes to raising a child who has autism.

Competitive Parenting

Every parent or guardian who has ever participated in a Mommy and Me group is well-versed in the concept of competitive parenting. Who was the first to get their child to use the potty? Who uttered the very first word? Is playing peewee soccer, learning to dance or sing, taking the most classes, or studying Chinese your top priority?

When you have a child who has autism, it can be difficult to prevent yourself from having the impression that the other child in your care is falling behind. But if you subscribe to the ideology of competitive parenting, you will inevitably come to the conclusion that the child entrusted to your care is falling short of expectations, and that the majority of the responsibility for this falls on your shoulders as a parent.

You can probably imagine that the result of this is the feeling that neither you nor the child you are raising is adequate in some way. The effect that these emotions have on a child with autism may not be immediately apparent, but it cannot be denied that they exist.

Helicopter Parenting 

Parents who behave like helicopters hover over their children, constantly monitoring and responding to everything they do. They are the first to offer assistance whenever there is a potential issue, they step in to make sure that everything runs smoothly, and they demand preferential treatment for their offspring.

It’s not uncommon for the parents or guardians of children with autism to engage in helicopter parenting because of their concern that their autistic child will face challenges that they won’t be able to solve. Of course, the reality is that this is a possibility.

But if helicopter parenting can stunt the development of neurotypical children, just think about the impact it has on the development of autistic children.

Children with autism are unable to learn from imitation and modeling, so they must instead learn through direct instruction and by actually carrying out tasks.

You are robbing your child of the opportunity to understand what is required, experience the challenge of trying, enjoy the thrill of success, or gain the knowledge developed through the process of failing when you do their work for them instead of letting them learn through their own experiences.

Perfectionist Parenting 

It’s true that some kids do better when they have parents who are extremely demanding about their academic performance, their athletic prowess, their command of the English language, and their behavior at the dinner table. There is a low probability that those children have autism.

Children who have autism may have many strengths, but the reality is that they may have a very difficult time meeting many of the expectations that are associated with a neurotypical childhood. Their verbal abilities might be impaired, which would make it difficult for them to achieve high grades and flawless grammar. They might have trouble with physical coordination, which makes it especially challenging for them to participate in sports.

You should absolutely have high expectations for the child in your care, even if the child has special needs; however, if those expectations are unrealistically high, both you and the child in your care will be subjected to unhealthy levels of stress.

Permissive Parenting 

If you are the parent of a child who has autism, you might feel as though there should be no expectations placed on your child outside of the realm of school and therapy. After all, it is difficult for children with autism to function in school, and they should be given a break when they need it.

It’s possible that you’ll come to the conclusion that it’s unreasonable to expect the child in your care to complete chores around the house, figure out how to calm themselves, or manage their behavior. The unfortunate result of this style of parenting, which encourages children to “do whatever they want,” is that it teaches children habits and behaviors that will lead to significant difficulties in the future.

Autism does make some things more difficult, but in almost every situation, children with autism are capable of accomplishing a great deal if they are given the opportunity and encouraged to do so. When you lower the bar for a child with autism by offering too little discipline or by setting low expectations for the child, you are actually making it more difficult for the child to comprehend or live up to high standards.

One thing is to have an understanding of the difficulties a child faces; another thing is to assume that a child is incapable, which is a very different and potentially harmful assumption.

Frenetic parenting 

A preschooler with autism has had five hours of behavioral therapy, an hour each of speech and physical therapy, two hours of parent-guided play therapy, and four hours of school since they woke up this morning. In addition, the preschooler had four hours of school today.

As soon as the child is finally able to fall into a deep sleep from exhaustion, you immediately turn to the internet in order to locate yet another therapeutic class, program, activity, or resource to add to the agenda. Because there is so much going on, the child with autism who is in your care never gets the chance to put what they have learned into practice, to actually interact with and get to know another child, or even just to do what children do, which is play.

Consider the possibility that a few hours a day of calm, unfocused time with a parent or guardian and child might be just what a child needs to grow and thrive rather than frantically searching for and participating in therapies and activities.

puzzle or jigsaw pattern on heart

There is no such thing as a perfect parent or guardian, but those who are responsible for the care of children who have disabilities face additional challenges. It’s possible that some parents and guardians have to deal with serious behavioral issues on a daily basis, such as autistic meltdowns, which can be very frightening at times.

That indicates that you might be feeling more overwhelmed, tired, frustrated, or anxious than the typical parent or guardian, and that you might also have fewer financial or emotional resources to bring to the table.

When you are feeling overwhelmed, it is perfectly acceptable for you to reach out for some relief or support, whether it be from other members of your family and friends or from local organizations that provide services to families who have members who are disabled. Keep in mind that if you take care of yourself, you will be able to provide the best possible support for the child who is in your care.