What is Autism? As parents or soon parents to be, why is it important to know what Autism is? How could we support children with Autism?
It is crucial to learn about Autism and be aware, has one will be able to lend a supporting hand for parents or loved ones, struggling to comprehend Autism.
Here is a summarized guide on how parents, parents to be, Educators and common folks could learn about Autism awareness, to support it.
What is Autism?
Autism is one of the most common developmental disabilities. Children or adults with autism, also called autism spectrum disorder (ASD), have differences in the way their brains develop and process information. As a result, they face significant communication, social, and behavior challenges.
Symptoms can be severe and interfere with everyday tasks, or they can be mild and cause only a few problems. Experts call this range of symptoms a “spectrum.” Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) are conditions that fall within the autism spectrum.
Autism Signs & Symptoms. (At all age)
- Abnormal Body Posturing or Facial Expressions
- Abnormal Tone of Voice
- Avoidance of Eye Contact or Poor Eye Contact
- Behavioral Disturbances
- Deficits in Language Comprehension
- Delay in Learning to Speak
- Flat or Monotonous Speech
- Inappropriate Social Interaction
- Intense Focus on One Topic
- Lack of Empathy
- Lack of Understanding Social Cues
- Learning Disability or Difficulty
- Not Engaging in Play With Peers
- Preoccupation With Specific Topics
- Problems With Two-Way Conversation
- Repeating Words or Phrases
- Repetitive Movements
- Self-Abusive Behaviors
- Sleep Disturbances
- Social Withdrawal
- Unusual Reactions in Social Settings
- Using Odd Words or Phrases
Autism in Babies and Children
It is compulsory to learn the signs and symptoms of Autism as early intervention and therapy can help kids develop skills and achieve their potential. Therapy is tailored to each child’s individual needs and may include behavioral, educational, speech, and occupational therapies.
The autism diagnosis age and intensity of autism’s early signs vary widely. Some infants show hints in their first months. In others, behaviors become obvious as late as age 2 or 3.
Not all children with autism show all the signs. Many children who don’t have autism show a few. That’s why professional evaluation is crucial.
The following may indicate your child is at risk for an autism spectrum disorder. If your child exhibits any of the following, ask your pediatrician or family doctor for an evaluation right away:
By 6 months
- Few or no big smiles or other warm, joyful and engaging expressions
- Limited or no eye contact
By 9 months
- Little or no back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions
By 12 months
- Little or no babbling
- Little or no back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving
- Little or no response to name
By 16 months
- Very few or no words
By 24 months
- Very few or no meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating)
At any age during childhood
- Loss of previously acquired speech, babbling or social skills
- Avoidance of eye contact
- Persistent preference for solitude
- Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings
- Delayed language development
- Persistent repetition of words or phrases (echolalia)
- Resistance to minor changes in routine or surroundings
- Restricted interests
- Repetitive behaviors (flapping, rocking, spinning, etc.)
- Unusual and intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights and/or colors
If you have concerns and find any of these signs and symptoms, do get your child screened by your health care provider.
Students with autism may:
- get easily frustrated and act out in certain situations
- be sensitive to bright lights, loud noises, or busy hallways
- need to go to the school nurse for medications
- miss class time for doctor visits and therapies
- have trouble speaking or not speak at all
- seem insensitive or unemotional
- need extra time for class assignments and homework
- need to take tests in a separate area away from distractions
What Teachers Can Do
Many students with autism can thrive in a structured environment, so establish a routine and keep it as consistent as possible. Adhering to daily schedules and allowing ample time for transitions can help with many students’ behavioral issues and frustrations.
Instructional support is often needed within the classroom setting. Students with autism learn better with pictures and demonstrations. Limit long verbal instructions and provide visual cues and written instructions, when possible. Also limit distractions and use positive rewards for positive behaviors.
Many people with autism have strong passions and deep interests. Getting to know your students’ likes and dislikes can help you understand what motivates them. Students with autism can participate in most activities that other kids and teens do, so provide encouragement to participate when appropriate.
A parent’s guide to autism treatment and support
If you’ve recently learned that your child has or might have autism spectrum disorder, you’re probably wondering and worrying about what comes next. No parent is ever prepared to hear that a child is anything other than happy and healthy, and an ASD diagnosis can be particularly frightening. You may be unsure about how to best help your child, or confused by conflicting treatment advice. Or you may have been told that ASD is an incurable, lifelong condition, leaving you concerned that nothing you do will make a difference.
While it is true that ASD is not something a person simply “grows out of,” there are many treatments that can help children acquire new skills and overcome a wide variety of developmental challenges. From free government services to in-home behavioral therapy and school-based programs, assistance is available to meet your child’s special needs and help them learn, grow, and thrive in life.
As the parent of a child with ASD or related developmental delays, the best thing you can do is to start treatment right away. Seek help as soon as you suspect something’s wrong. Don’t wait to see if your child will catch up later or outgrow the problem. Don’t even wait for an official diagnosis. The earlier children with autism spectrum disorder get help, the greater their chance of treatment success. Early intervention is the most effective way to speed up your child’s development and reduce the symptoms of autism over the lifespan.
When your Child has Autism.
Learn about autism. The more you know about autism spectrum disorder, the better equipped you’ll be to make informed decisions for your child. Educate yourself about the treatment options, ask questions, and participate in all treatment decisions.
Become an expert on your child. Figure out what triggers your kid’s challenging or disruptive behaviors and what elicits a positive response. What does your child find stressful or frightening? Calming? Uncomfortable? Enjoyable? If you understand what affects your child, you’ll be better at troubleshooting problems and preventing or modifying situations that cause difficulties.
Accept your child, quirks and all. Rather than focusing on how your autistic child is different from other children and what he or she is “missing,” practice acceptance. Enjoy your kid’s special quirks, celebrate small successes, and stop comparing your child to others. Feeling unconditionally loved and accepted will help your child more than anything else.
Don’t give up. It’s impossible to predict the course of autism spectrum disorder. Don’t jump to conclusions about what life is going to be like for your child. Like everyone else, people with autism have an entire lifetime to grow and develop their abilities.
Below mentioned are few tips on helping your child with Autism thrive.
Your child’s treatment should be tailored according to his or her individual needs. You know your child best, so it’s up to you to make sure those needs are being met. You can do that by asking yourself the following questions:
What are my child’s strengths – and his or her weaknesses?
What behaviors are causing the most problems? What important skills is my child lacking?
How does my child learn best – through seeing, listening, or doing?
What does my child enjoy – and how can those activities be used in treatment and to bolster learning?
- Be consistent. Children with ASD have a hard time applying what they’ve learned in one setting (such as the therapist’s office or school) to others, including the home. For example, your child may use sign language at school to communicate, but never think to do so at home. Creating consistency in your child’s environment is the best way to reinforce learning.
- Stick to a schedule. Children with ASD tend to do best when they have a highly-structured schedule or routine. Again, this goes back to the consistency they both need and crave. Set up a schedule for your child, with regular times for meals, therapy, school, and bedtime. Try to keep disruptions to this routine to a minimum. If there is an unavoidable schedule change, prepare your child for it in advance.
- Reward good behavior. Positive reinforcement can go a long way with children with ASD, so make an effort to “catch them doing something good.” Praise them when they act appropriately or learn a new skill, being very specific about what behavior they’re being praised for. Also look for other ways to reward them for good behavior, such as giving them a sticker or letting them play with a favorite toy.
- Create a home safety zone. Carve out a private space in your home where your child can relax, feel secure, and be safe. This will involve organizing and setting boundaries in ways your child can understand. Visual cues can be helpful (colored tape marking areas that are off limits, labeling items in the house with pictures). You may also need to safety proof the house, particularly if your child is prone to tantrums or other self-injurious behaviors.
- Make time for fun. A child coping with ASD is still a child. For both children with ASD and their parents, there needs to be more to life than therapy. Schedule playtime when your child is most alert and awake. Figure out ways to have fun together by thinking about the things that make your child smile, laugh, and come out of her/his shell.
- Pay attention to your child’s sensory sensitivities. Many children with ASD are hypersensitive to light, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Some children with autism are “under-sensitive” to sensory stimuli. Figure out what sights, sounds, smells, movements, and tactile sensations trigger your kid’s “bad” or disruptive behaviors and what elicits a positive response. What does your child find stressful? Calming? Uncomfortable? Enjoyable? If you understand what affects your child, you’ll be better at troubleshooting problems, preventing situations that cause difficulties, and creating successful experiences.
Finally, keep in mind that no matter what treatment plan is chosen, your involvement is vital to success. You can help your child get the most out of treatment by working hand-in-hand with the treatment team and following through with the therapy at home. (This is why your well-being is essential!)
By Zaynab Zafran
(Early Education Trainer)