Plenty of people with autism enjoy a high quality of life, but many others do not. It’s important to remember that autism exists on a spectrum, so the freedoms and capabilities present in one individual may not be present in another.
The industry has lots more to learn about people with autism who are struggling with these issues. In the meantime, there are several ways to support individuals, help them feel respected, included, and safe, and improve their communication and social skills.
Therapeutic Pathways is committed to supporting and helping individuals with autism meet their goals and live satisfying lives. Keep reading to learn some of the best ways to help individuals with autism enjoy a higher quality of life.
Ways to Improve Quality of Life
When we say “quality of life” (QoL), we’re talking about the basic ability to interact with others and the world – on our own terms and in our own way.
Although research is fairly limited, studies show that people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are far more likely to have a poorer quality of life than their neurotypical peers. This is partly due to social isolation, low self-esteem, and lack of belief in their own capabilities.
In their article “Quality of Life in Persons with Intellectual Disabilities and Mental Health Problems: An Explorative Study,” researchers Filip Morisse, Eleonore Vandemaele, Claudia Claes, Lien Claes, and Stijn Vandevelde explain that there are eight domains within the Quality of Life (QoL) framework: personal development, self-determination, interpersonal relations, social inclusion, rights, emotional well-being, physical well-being, and material well-being.
Of those eight domains, the researchers found that the most common were emotional well-being, interpersonal relations, and self-determination.
We’ll discuss each of these domains below and give you some ideas for achieving them.
The domains mentioned above are all closely related, especially emotional and physical well-being. If your child has autism, you’ve probably witnessed this firsthand – individuals with autism may communicate their pain or physical discomfort through emotion such as anxiety, crying, and even acts of aggression.
To support your child’s emotional well-being and reduce instances of aggression and extreme emotion, follow these tips, many of which are based on the research discussed above:
- Provide a sense of certainty and predictability for your child by setting up a daily routine for them to follow.
- Set up a network of family members and/or caregivers (not just parents) whom the individual can rely on in times of crisis or whenever they feel distressed.
- Boost your child’s self-image by listening to them, being genuinely interested in their thoughts and ideas, and supporting their strengths.
- Let your child know every day throughout the day that they are loved and valued.
- Teach your child relaxation skills that they can utilize at home, school, or any other place they frequent.
- Make sure you aren’t overly demanding of your child. Due to the discrepancy between their emotional and intellectual levels of development, you should set realistic goals and have realistic expectations for your child.
Even though children with autism seem to prefer being by themselves, the fact is that all humans need social interaction to thrive.
It can take a good deal of time for individuals with autism to develop the social skills needed to make and keep friends, so it’s important that you seek treatment for your child as soon as they receive an autism diagnosis.
Although it may take them a little longer to develop relationships, people with autism are no less capable of forming strong, lasting, and meaningful friendships than anyone else. Here are some ways that you can support your child in their relationships:
- Provide frequent and immediate feedback when your child behaves inappropriately or “misses” a social cue. Some children with autism have a difficult time learning from past experiences, so being consistent and reminding them what they should do in a given situation will help.
- Look into planned after-school activities for your child. Children with ASD benefit from schedules and planned events, so having a set time to play a sport, practice music, or attend art class with other children their age can have a positive influence on their social development.
- Teach empathy and reciprocity to your child with autism by giving them the appropriate vocabulary, awareness of feelings, emotional states, recognition of others’ facial expressions, and non-verbal social cues.
- Teach your child how to be appropriately assertive in communicating their needs, beliefs, and ideas.
Self-determination is the idea that individuals can control their own destiny by making their own choices and decisions. Self-determined children and young adults are more likely to succeed and live fulfilling, independent lives, so it’s crucial to foster these skills as soon as possible.
Here are some ways you can help promote these skills for your child:
- Help your child develop short and long-term goals. A short-term goal for an elementary-age student could be to finish their assigned reading book a few days earlier than their teacher’s deadline.
- Give your child choices whenever possible. These could be as simple as asking them which kind of ice cream they’d like for dessert.
- Help your child understand their interests, strengths, and challenges. This will give them a valuable sense of self-knowledge and confidence in their abilities.
Therapeutic Pathways Helps Improve Quality of Life in Individuals With Autism and Behavior Disorders
All people deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and autonomy. Although they have not always been treated this way, individuals with autism are entitled to the same human rights as everyone else.
At Therapeutic Pathways, we are passionate about helping individuals with autism to live fulfilling, meaningful lives through compassionate care and advocacy.
If your child’s behavior disorder has an impact on their quality of life, contact us about possible treatment options. We’re here to help.