Perhaps the most disheartening feeling that a parent or therapist experiences when interacting with a child with autism is a lack of connection. You do everything you possibly can to connect with a child but you get nothing in return.
When we think about our own relationships with our closest friends and family, there are two main characteristics that permeate through them: trust and understanding.
Both characteristics rely on empathy; the ability to view things from another’s perspective. This is one of the hardest skills to work on when dealing with a child who has ASD, as their interests and motivations may not make inherent sense. Yet, without empathy, we cannot hope to fully connect with a child.
So how do you fully empathise with your child? In order to do so, you will need to immerse yourself in your child’s world where perhaps norms and conventions do not exist (yet). It helps to reframe your relationship from parent to friend. While there are many times you will need to fulfil your duties as a parent (such as organising the household, cooking dinner, etc.), there are also so many times throughout the day when you don’t have to see yourself as a parent. Instead, take on the role of your child’s play partner. Don’t seek to teach your child; seek to share experiences.
Children with autism are children nonetheless and that means they still like to have fun and to play. They may express it differently from typically developing children but if you watch your child closely enough, you will know what it is that motivates them. For some, this might be cars. For others, it might be bubbles or food. As long as you know what motivates your children, you can involve yourself in that experience.
By sharing experiences with your child, you are building up trust and demonstrating to your child that you understand them. In turn, this will lead to them opening up and seeking you out to play.