Ref: CHB/HB/032/15                                                                                   

AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER – PART 3

This week CHB health bulletin explores how you can help your child and yourself cope with the diagnosis of Autism.
 
We’re waiting to hear from you. Do you have a child that suffers from Autism? A family friend? A relative?  This can help others.
 
Tell us your experiences, confidentiality shall be strictly abided by.

GETTING DIAGNOSED & COPING
 
If you've recently learned that your child has or might have an autism spectrum disorder, you're probably wondering and worrying about what comes next. You are probably feeling baffled and overwhelmed. No parent is ever prepared to hear that a child is anything other than happy and healthy, and a diagnosis of autism can be particularly frightening.

Some tips for coping with the diagnosis and helping your child according to http://www.helpguide.org/articles/autism/helping-children-with-autism.htm are as follows:
 

PROVIDE STRUCTURE & SAFETY

  • Be consistent. Children with autism have a hard time adapting 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. Find out what your child’s therapists are doing and continue their techniques at home.
  • Stick to a schedule. Children with autism 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 autism, 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.

FIND NONVERBAL WAYS TO CONNECT 

Connecting with a child with autism can be challenging, but you don’t need to talk in order to communicate and bond. You communicate by the way you look at your child, the way you touch him or her, and by the tone of your voice and your body language. Your child is also communicating with you, even if he or she never speaks. You just need to learn the language. 

  • Look for nonverbal cues. Pay attention to the kinds of sounds they make, their facial expressions, and the gestures they use when they’re tired, hungry, or want something.
  • Figure out the need behind the tantrum. It’s only natural to feel upset when you are misunderstood or ignored, and it’s no different for children with autism. When children with autism act out, it’s often because you’re not picking up on their nonverbal cues.
  • Make time for fun. A child coping with autism is still a kid. For both children with autism and their parents, there needs to be more to life than therapy. Play is an essential part of learning and shouldn’t feel like work.
  • Pay attention to your child’s sensory sensitivities. Many children with autism are hypersensitive to light, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Other 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 autistic 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.

CREATE A PERSONALIZED AUTISM TREATMENT PLAN 

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?
  • What are my child’s 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?

Finally, keep in mind that no matter what autism 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 autism treatment team and following through with the therapy at home. 

FIND HELP & SUPPORT 

Caring for a child with an autism spectrum disorder can demand a lot of energy and time. There may be days when you feel overwhelmed, stressed, or discouraged. Parenting isn’t ever easy, and raising a child with special needs is even more challenging. In order to be the best parent you can be it’s essential that you take care of yourself.
 
Don’t try to do everything on your own. You don’t have to! There are many places that families of autistic kids can turn to for advice, a helping hand, advocacy, and support.

Next time: Autism myths busted!

Compiled by Dr. Neelam A. Ismail
 

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