Trial and Error: 6 things that have helped our ASD daughter

When Mika was first diagnosed, I threw myself, heart and soul, into researching ways to help her. The poor kid became a veritable guinea pig for just about anything I came across that sounded remotely feasible: dietary changes, supplements, homeopathy, naturopathy…you name it, we tried it.

Many seemed to have at least some benefit, but not all were worth pursuing. Mika has an abhorrence of swallowing any kind of pill/capsule, so supplements have pretty much fallen by the wayside. Dietary changes were a nightmare for someone who dislikes so many tastes and textures (and is vegetarian to boot), and I had to let things slide on that front as well, just for the sake of my sanity. (She has since become gluten-free on her own, and yes, I’ve seen improvement in brain function…but I try not to tell her, “I told you so!”)

Through a long (oh, so long!) process of trial and error, however, we’ve added some things to our toolbox that have helped her tremendously (and consequently us, too). Here’s a list of the top ones:

  1. The establishment of a safe space. Mika’s room has become her sanctuary. No one enters without express permission. If she retreats there in meltdown mode, I don’t go in to check on her or talk to her; if she’s angry with me, I don’t go in to apologize even if I know I’m in the wrong. I always, always wait until or she either emerges on her own or invites me in. Since creating these boundaries for her, we’ve noticed that she recovers much more quickly from her meltdowns and frustrations — in her words, it’s because her brain isn’t stuck in defense mode** and so it comes back online faster.
  2. A bed tent. Small spaces make Mika feel more secure. She would live her entire life in a blanket fort if she could. Because that’s not practical, I went looking for other solutions and came across a pop-up bed tent, which essentially turns her bed into a tent. It provides additional privacy and the closed-in feeling she wants, plus it helps block out light and noise (she is a notoriously light sleeper, as are many people with ASD).
  3. A weighted blanket. Anxiety and insomnia have been enormous issues for Mika for as long as I can remember. A couple of years ago, she finally articulated to me that she felt like she was physically coming apart…that she couldn’t hold herself together. The feeling (rightfully so, in my opinion) freaked her out. Back to the Internet I went, where I discovered weighted blankets, which are actually recommended for people with anxiety, insomnia issues…and ASD. Who knew, right? The one we bought her weighs 20 lbs and I have no idea how she can stand being under it, but she loves it. And yes, it helps. (I’m not giving you a link for this one because there are many, many different iterations out there with widely varying prices…your best bet is to just Google ‘weighted blanket’.)
  4. Massage and craniosacral therapy. You know how tense your shoulders get when you’re stressed? How that tension becomes the kind of pain that screams at you every time you move? Turns out that anxiety does that to Mika’s entire body…all the time. Enter massage therapy and craniosacral therapy. I was honestly shocked when she took to these (she loves both), because she has huge issues with being touched. But take to them she did, giving us another tool with which to help her.
  5. Bach’s Rescue Remedy. As with most people with ASD, Mika doesn’t do well with change, conflict, or too much emotion. When her anxiety kicks in while she’s out in public and unable to access her safe space (or her weighted blanket), she uses one of the Bach’s Flower Remedies — specifically Rescue Remedy, which helps her relax and focus in a stressful situation. Of all the things we’ve found that help, this one is the most portable, and she’s learned to carry it everywhere with her.
  6. Epsom salt baths. One of the supplements that I would really, really like Mika to take is magnesium, because a deficiency can result in brain fog, anxiety, and — you guessed it — insomnia. Because of her aversion to swallowing pills, however, that just isn’t going to happen on any kind of consistent basis. But did you know that Epsom salts are made up of magnesium sulfate? Which can be absorbed by your body while you sit in a relaxing bath? And that it’s much easier to get someone to take said relaxing bath than it is to get them to swallow another pill? True story, I swear.

And there you have it. Six things that have worked for us that you might want to consider for your own child (or yourself) if you haven’t already. But please remember that not all things will suit all people, so your results may vary from ours. Oh, and may I respectfully suggest you don’t try all of them at once? Apparently being bombarded with ideas (no matter how well meaning) from parents (no matter how loving) can be a little overwhelming for someone with ASD…

Oops. :P

Originally published on February 16, 2017 at https://www.dancingwithmydaughter.com/single-post/2017/02/17/Trial-and-Error-6-things-that-have-worked-for-our-ASD-daughter

**Defense mode is a term used by Asperger Experts. While they are a for-profit organization, they provide a great deal of information for free as well, and I highly recommend spending some time exploring their articles.