“Love is expressed in many ways, and as nice as the words are to hear, they are unnecessary to express true love.” –Lauren Casper
It’s no secret people with autism communicate differently than those who are neurotypical. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember this applies to their love language too. Though we may want to hug, squeeze and smother our special little ones with kisses, it is important to keep in mind this might not always be the best way to express love to a child on the spectrum. Additionally, just because your little one doesn’t always want to hug, squeeze or shower YOU with kisses, doesn’t mean they don’t love and appreciate you just as much! They just communicate their love in a different way. In celebration of Valentine’s Day, we’re going to discuss how to detect the other ways (verbal and nonverbal) children with autism are expressing their love for you, as well as how to best express your love for a little one on the spectrum.
According to an article published by SpringBrook Behavioral Health about Adapting Love Languages to Meet the Needs of Kids with ASD, there are five languages of love: physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and gifts. As a parent, it’s your duty to decipher what love language(s) your child prefers and to reciprocate your love by imitating these languages and meeting them where they feel comfortable. Do they gift you their drawings, sit near you on the couch, or suggest a favorite shared activity? These are all ways your child is expressing their love for you without explicitly saying it, you may just need to look a little deeper to discover them.
A more proactive tip this article suggests is to give your child some love language options and closely observe which ones they choose. For example, when it comes to play time you might ask if they would rather horseplay (physical touch), help you cook dinner (acts of service), or participate in a favorite shared activity (quality time)? Their response will be indicative of their preferred love language and might help you to more clearly identify their next gesture of love.
For severely impaired children, the combination of sensory sensitivities, lack of joint attention skills and poor communication may make it especially difficult for you to pick up on expressions of love. But don’t be mistaken—they do feel love. Whether it’s evident in the tone of their vocalization, the squeeze in their grasp, the sniffing of your hair, or just their tolerance of you beside them, it is important to understand detecting their love takes more than just listening with your ears! Regardless of how troubled or overwhelmed your child may feel, there are sensory avenues that comfort and sooth them, and it is your job to identify them through trial and error, patience, and practice.
So, the next time you may feel frustrated that your child is not making eye contact with you, take a moment to realize they may just be trying to listen—really listen. The next time they close their eyes and lean on your shoulder, draw you something, repeat lyrics to a song you like, or choose you to accompany them for a specific activity, know this is their unique way of showing you they love you.
We love our children at Cayer Behavioral Group, and we know you do too. On behalf of our team here at CBG, we wish you a happy and love-filled Valentine’s Day!
As always, please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns you may have. CBG is just a phone call or email away.
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