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Helping a Child With Autism Try New Things

Helping a Child With Autism Try New Things

It’s always great to see your children trying new things, watching their adventurous side coming to light. It’s especially gratifying when I see my son—who’s been diagnosed with ADHD and autism spectrum disorder--take a leap even when he is scared. I have done plenty of things while afraid and after I complete them I feel so freakin’ good. That’s exactly what he’s been doing lately, only it is much harder for him than for me, or for most of us. He’s been trying new things and just going for it, even when he’s scared. It can be something as simple as trying a new food or texture, or as he did recently, riding in a go-kart. He contemplated not doing it but he took the chance and he tried something new. I was super proud to witness this and thrilled to see how happy he was with the outcome.

Many people don’t understand how accomplishing this, or even something smaller that seems like a little stride, can be so significant, how it makes you feel as a parent. With my son, you can’t make much of a big deal about things like this because he doesn’t like extra attention and he’s extremely modest, but I marveled as I watched him ask tons of preparatory questions before jumping on that go-kart. All I did was soothe his anxieties as I explained to him what to expect, and I let him do the rest. It helped that there were other children doing it for the first time as well, but sometimes that really doesn’t make a difference, because when he’s made up his mind, he’s made it up no matter who is present. 

So this is how it all played out. Of course he knew we would be attending a go-kart racing birthday party in Connecticut, but since we had never been to an official Go Kart track before, he didn’t know what to expect. I tried to answer all his questions but some answers I simply didn’t know. All of the children attended a safety class prior to getting on the track. I observed as he watched attentively. As we walked to the track I saw him observing and asking if he needed a helmet and a neck brace, and his dad assisted him in putting on all of the protective gear. Then it was time to sit in the seat. 

My son approached the Go Kart slowly, still looking around. When he sat down a few seconds later I heard him mumble through the helmet, “I don’t know if I want to do this.” I said, “You don’t have to if you don’t want to, but you haven’t tried it yet!” He responded, “I don’t like it.” I then chimed in, “You haven’t tried it to know if you like it.” There was a brief pause. I continued, “Give it a chance, it’s something new and then if you don’t like it, don’t do it again.” 

He got it. He asked no further questions, and it was his time to get buckled in. He took the advice I gave him and the reminder to try new things. As the wheels sped away onto the track, so did his fear. That moment gave me great hope that he’s opening up, he’s taking chances, and he’s listening to reason. 

The world seemed a little brighter for me that day. In fact, later on, he took another stab at something he’d been hesitant with previously: hitting a piñata.

As parents, we have to sit back and just let things unfold sometimes, while other times, our kids need a nudge in the right direction. Of course there might be things they won’t try, but at least this is a step in the right direction. 

Care to share: Has your child tried something new lately? Share away… Let’s celebrate them!

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Eileen Carter-Campos


Eileen Carter-Campos is a New York City Public School teacher in Brooklyn by day and a freelance writer, wife, and mother of two boys by night. A contributor for various online publications and heavily involved in social media. Eileen is the founder of mommyteaches.com, where she blogs about her pride in teaching, parenting, and the blessings and trials that life have to offer. She is a Circle of Moms Top 25 Teacher Mom, nominated for Best Latin@ Education Blogger, Hispano Blogger Award and The Socia Revolucion SXSWi 2013 award.  

Carter-Campos graduated from NYU with honors with a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education. A children’s book collector from a young age, Eileen loves cooking all types of food, reading, and being arts-and-crafty with her boys. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Eileen is married to her high school sweetheart. Follow Eileen on Twitter @EileenCCampos and @MommyT3aches.com.


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