A car accident is an extremely stressful situation. Having a child with autism can make the situation harder on everyone, but remember that it is always more stressful for your child than you. Here are some of the techniques that you can use in order to help your child cope with the aftermath of an accident.
Keep Your Cool
It can be hard to remain calm following an accident. Becoming stressed yourself is going to make the accident more traumatic for your child. This means that you need to keep your cool throughout the process. If you need to vent about the situation, be mindful about doing so when your child isn’t around. If he or she sees that you’re losing it, he or she is more likely to have a meltdown as well. Keep a level and even tone so that you can reduce the amount of stress that your child experiences. If your child is injured, make sure to explain to the emergency responders and the police that your child has autism, how he or she expresses pain or fear, and whether he or she will be able to respond to questions.
Determine the best way to communicate with your child so that you can alleviate his or her fears. It’s good to have set up systems beforehand so your child knows how to safely express feelings to you, such as tapping your hand instead of hugging or kissing. Your child may have been attached to the car, and if he or she has been injured in the accident, he or she could be having extremely complicated feelings even if these feelings are not expressed in a way you are familiar with. Furthermore, flashing lights, loud noises and other triggers that accompany accidents can be extremely stressful for a child with autism. Employ coping strategies with your child so that he or she can process what occurred and deal with it appropriately.
Use Your Resources
The most inconvenient thing following an accident is having to deal with repairing or replacing your vehicle. This adds stress to an already emotionally charged situation. Also, your child may have difficulty adjusting to a change in vehicle or schedule, so it may be important to you to get your old car back in service quickly. You may want to look into collision repair shops that have a quick turnaround time and certified repairs so that you can get things back to normal. Ask your child if he or she would like to come with you to see the car while it’s in the shop, as this can help your child process the changes in transportation and schedule that could be happening because of the accident. Letting your child have a “sneak peek” of an old or new car will help them prepare for having it reintegrated into his or her daily routine.
Stick with your routine so that your child can cope with the trauma of the accident. Your child is more likely to stabilize when things aren’t constantly changing in his or her life. This can be difficult because things are still up in the air in regards to handling the incidentals that go along with a car accident. Try to maintain your normal routine as much as possible. This will help your child to feel more secure with life and more open to discuss emotions.
All children experience trauma at some point in their lives. Use these strategies so that you can reduce the long-term impact that go can along with being involved in a car accident. Remember, however, that your child may not want to talk about or discuss feelings with you, and this is also okay.
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most of her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information, contact Brooke via Facebook at facebook.com/brooke.chaplan or Twitter @BrookeChaplan
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