Supporting autistic children with mental illnesses
Supporting autistic children is a concern for many parents, teachers, caregivers and loved ones, especially when it comes to children who suffer from additional mental health challenges. In these cases, mental health conditions like anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are some of those most-commonly experienced.
Apart from specialised care according to the symptoms presented by each child, it’s important to understand what their real needs are, without assuming what they may be.
In this post, we help you explore this complex area of caregiving and guide you in improving the quality of life and supporting autistic children with mental illnesses.
Building a relationship with a mental health professional
When it comes to providing support to children experiencing autism and other mental health conditions, the guidance of a therapist or other mental health professional is crucial.
In order for this type of care to be effective, however, it’s important that the child under your care trusts or accepts their therapist as someone who can help them, especially because the comorbidity of these conditions may cause children to withdraw from social interactions and remain isolated.
Once a relationship is established, it may be easier for a mental health professional to address the specific signs of the condition an autistic child is experiencing and help them overcome some of their pain or discomfort.
Understand how your child communicates or absorbs information and use this to provide reassurance
Children with autism may absorb information a little differently compared to other children and it’s important that you try and understand what their process is. For instance, they may respond much better to visual cues and messaging.
By familiarizing yourself with their communication styles and behaviour, you can find a way to connect with your child and support them with a caring presence. Even if you feel like you can’t speak or reassure them as much as you would like, finding a small, albeit meaningful, way to convey your love or support is crucial.
Take them to a psychiatrist if they require any medication
Nowadays, certain mental health challenges are treated with a combination of therapy, which includes cognitive behavioural therapy, as well as certain drugs that aim to rectify imbalances in the brain’s neurotransmitters.
This is especially the case for conditions like depression and OCD, where a class of drugs known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRIs are prescribed. These include drugs like Prozac and Seroxat.
In this process, make sure this medication is administered with proper care and only under the guidance of a qualified doctor. Remember, using medication should not be the only course of treatment for autistic children with mental illnesses.
Greater family and community engagement
As with any person suffering from a mental health condition, family and community engagement is crucial to the recovery process.
Long periods of isolation, for even the healthiest individual, is not ideal. As such, it’s crucial for those suffering from mental health challenges to be in environments that are loving, caring and supportive.
Children with autism, however, may struggle more with social interactions compared to other children. As such it’s important to understand their needs and provide them with community support without overwhelming them.
While this might be a challenging process, you don’t have to do it alone. You can always reach out for support from a mental health professional.
Take care of yourself throughout this process
One thing we often fail to discuss when it comes to supporting autistic children is caring for ourselves during this journey.
Taking care of someone else, even if it’s your own child, is a long-term commitment – one that has its ups and downs. As such, it’s important that you pay attention to your needs and do what it takes to remain healthy and resilient.
Sometimes, this means reaching out for help and support for yourself. This is a brave and intelligent decision; one that will benefit both you and the child under your care.
Supporting autistic children is made easy with telehealth mental health services
If easily accessible mental healthcare is a concern, put your worries to the rest with the support of our team at onPsych. Our pool of qualified mental health professionals can now be consulted from the comfort of your home through our telehealth services.