It’s back to school time again, and for the second year in a row, the world is far from normal. This can be a challenging transition for any child in any year, but especially more so for those with an autistic child in the family. With that in mind, we reached out to the team from MindNest Health and asked them for some top tips to guide us as we ready our children to return to the classroom.
Those of you who follow NNF may remember that MindNest Health is a digital health platform that came out of the Yale Child Study Center, an internationally recognized center for the treatment of autistic children. The goal of the platform is to make the counsel of the Yale Child Study Center available to all parents of an autistic child, no matter where they live. We did a Facebook Live chat with the MindNest team last year at this time, and it got a great response. So now, I’ll turn this over to Lauren Belliveau, the CEO of MindNest:
Greetings, “Not Just a Dad” subscribers and friends of NNF! We’re happy to be able to share what we’ve learned to help you ready your child to return to school, whatever that may look like in your community this year. Of course, there is no “one size fits all” solution for every family, but here are some things we’ve learned along the way.
- Focus on wellness for your family and don’t forget to take care of yourself, too. Good sleep hygiene, good nutrition and physical activity are so important and form the foundation for more productive and less stressful days. If your child is hungry, tired or overstimulated, it sets the stage for behavioral issues (for parents, too!)
- Recognize that behavior is a form of communication. When children are stressed or anxious or depressed, and cannot articulate what is bothering them, it can come out as disruptive behavior or anger outbursts or tantrums, and it’s important to try to understand what your child is communicating. Sometimes it will be to keep doing something they want to do, or sometimes it might be the opposite – to avoid an activity that makes them feel overstimulated or anxious. This behavior may also be linked to trying to get attention. If parents can take a step back and try to understand what underlying issues those disruptive behaviors are communicating, it can help them to decide how to manage whatever those triggers may have been.
- Focus on the positive. When your child exhibits a behavior that is positive, don’t forget to praise and reward them, with the goal of reinforcing those positive behaviors; hopefully they will, over time eclipse the negative behaviors.
- Once you learn a new skill to help manage your child, practice, practice, practice!
- This one is VERY important – there’s no such thing as perfect, so don’t be too hard on yourself! Celebrate your successes, and learn from your challenges. That’s all any of us can ask of ourselves!
I hope these are helpful, and if you have any questions for us, please put them in the comments and the NNF team will forward them to us. If you want to learn more about MindNest, you can find us at https://mindnest.app/
Finally, I want to send our thanks to the team at NeuroNetworks Fund. They saw the promise of our digital platform early on, led a $300,000 investment in MindNest last spring and have continued to provide critical advice and business know-how. Their support has allowed us to grow our company and advance the platform so that it will be able to come to market and help families of an autistic child much faster than we had planned.
Thanks for listening!