Elements Of Empathy And Sympathy
A lack of expressed sympathy or empathy may not be the result of a lack of emotion in someone who has autism, but rather due to underdeveloped skills. There are several elements involved in showing empathy to others.
To connect with another person in these ways, one must:
- Recognize the other person’s feelings
- Understand the other person’s hopes, dreams, and/or expectations
- Have the emotional experience to relate personally to another’s feelings
- Have the tools to physically and verbally express empathic feelings
People with autism who struggle to show empathy and sympathy may have difficulty with one or more of these.
Prepare Yourself Mentally And Physically
According to experts, were built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, its important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.
Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside. Bob Proctor
Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:
Encouraging Emotional Development In Autistic Children
Autistic children can build skills in recognising and managing their emotions. You can use everyday interactions to help your autistic child learn about emotions and improve their ability to express and respond to emotions.
Here are some ideas:
- Label emotions in natural contexts: when youre reading a book, watching a video or visiting friends with your child, you can point out emotions. For example, you might say, Look Sallys smiling. Shes happy.
- Be responsive: respond to your childs emotions by saying, for example, Youre smiling, you must be happy. You can also play up your own emotional responses for example, I am SO excited! Give me a high five.
- Get your childs attention: if you speak to your child and get no response, speak again. You might need to do this in an exaggerated way to get your childs attention for example, by using a bright voice and a lot of expression.
- Draw your childs attention to another person. For example, ask someone else to tell your child what you said, to draw your childs attention to another person whos speaking.
You might also find the following tools useful:
It helps to have realistic expectations. Autistic children can learn to be more emotionally responsive, but even when they have these skills, they tend to use them less than other children.
Also Check: Is Dr Shaun Murphy Really Autistic
Talk About The Child’s Interests
Narrow or extreme interest in specific topics is a core autism symptom. Children can be fascinated by almost anything, including maps, numbers, recipes, geography, and more.
For children with autism, talking about these topics brings comfort. They enjoy sharing knowledge, and they can talk endlessly about the subject without asking for your feedback.
Bond with the child by listening to the topic. Ask questions, if you can. Avoid changing the subject. Just let the child talk until you know one another better.
Listen To The Parents
Just as you surround a child with autism with acceptance, do the same for parents. Your support could mean the world to them.
Advocates explain that parents would love a night off to decompress and get away. If you feel comfortable with the idea, offer to babysit. If you don’t, provide a listening ear to a parent in need. Schedule a regular coffee date for decompression and chatter, or set up play dates between your children while you both supervise.
Recommended Reading: Prognosis Mild Autism
Dont Use Creative Language
Children with autism take things literally. If you sprinkle your conversation with irony, sarcasm, exaggerations, or idioms, you’re bound to confuse the child.
For example, don’t tell a child to “keep an eye on something. The child may reach for it and put the item near his face.
Be as literal and direct as you can, so the child knows exactly what youre talking about.
If you slip and say something unusual, dont laugh at the child for taking your words literally. Apologize for your mistake, and rephrase the sentence so your meaning is clear. Theres nothing funny about a misunderstanding like this.
The Challenges Of Living With High
Steven Gans, MD, is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
People with HFA can struggle significantly. They may not need the same level of support as people with more severe autism. However, it can still have a major impact on their daily lives.
This article discusses the common challenges of living with high-functioning autism.
Also Check: Is Dr Shaun Murphy Really Autistic
Search For The Hidden Meaning
Many of your childs behaviors may not make obvious sensethey dont seem to serve any clear purpose. But your child doesnt smear poop all over the walls on purpose to make you cry or get angry. Assume for a minute that crazy behaviors like this do make some sense, that your child is sending you coded messages about things that are important to himand your job is to break the code so you can read the messages.
The first thing to do is to start recording these outbursts and stunts the way an anthropologist might record the actions of a newly discovered native people. Suspend your judgments, what you think you know. What time do these events most often happen? Does the same thing often happen first? Perhaps hes more likely to have outbursts on pizza day in the school cafeteria, or after youve just turned on the lights because its getting dark outside. Maybe it only happens when you turn on the fluorescent light in the kitchen. Many behaviors are set off or triggered by an event. Just as you might suddenly feel hungry as you walk past a bakery, there are setting events in your childs lifethe things that set off difficult behaviors. You can use a diary or log to try to identify these setting events for some of your childs most difficult behaviors.
Instead of looking at the behavior as bad, look for how the context, or environment, is out of synch with your child, and explore what you can do about it.
Specific Or Small Triggers
Sometimes, the cause of a meltdown can be something that looks small and super specific. Maybe its a minor change to your routine, a missed word in a conversation, the texture of one kind of vegetable or one particular pop song on the radio. While others may not think a small trigger is a big deal, it can be majorly overwhelming.
Trigger wise its small things for me. Small changes, a route Im used to changing. Whether that be a misunderstanding, small comments about me. A specific smell or texture of something, high pitched noise, not being able to find stuff. Cara
Read Also: Dyslexia And Adhd Comorbidity
Help During A Meltdown
We tend to expect a lot from children with autism. They thrive in environments that are calm, familiar, and supportive. But we often ask them to succeed in grocery stores, airports, and classrooms.
When children with autism are overwhelmed, they can experience meltdowns. Meltdowns can involve:
- Withdrawal. The child retreats to an inner world and stops talking altogether. The child may perform repetitive actions like rocking or hand flapping to self-soothe.
- Tantrums. The child cries, screams, stomps their feet, or curls into a ball.
Parents become adept at dealing with these episodes, but always ask if you can help. You could ask a restaurant to turn down the music, for example, while a worried mother attempts to calm her child.
You can also intervene directly. Experts suggest using a gentle voice and simple commands. Tell the child, Get up, and stand next to me. If the child cant respond, stay nearby and let the meltdown blow through. When the child seems calmer, try the commands.
When People Arent On Your Level
Most neurotypical people dont know much about how to accommodate autistic people in conversation . Often, youll be waiting for people to catch up to you, and thats frustrating. When people arent quite getting you or youre in a situation thats generally a mismatch like a job that requires lots of social interaction the distress or overwhelm can easily lead to a meltdown.
Being ridiculously outspoken has helped to get me a position as head of discipline for a High School of over 600 students. You can imagine in that situation that meltdowns are predictable, primarily because of the amount of interactions I have to have daily. I am also a hyper intellectual which makes me see things first, in a manner of speaking. When I see what other people should be seeing, I will often wait for them to come to the realization within a situation and when they dont, I can get anxious. Darin J.
You May Like: Diy Visual Schedule
How To Support Your Child
Taking steps to support your child may reduce or prevent meltdowns. It can help to:
- Have a visual system to show them whats coming up that day. Timetables or visual timers can be useful.
- Use emotion thermometers or labelling to help communicate.
- Be consistent. Put routines in place. Make sure your child knows when things are happening. Try to keep the routines every day.
- Think about how you will support your child if unexpected events happen.
- Help you child understand what to expect in certain situations. Social Stories can support with this.
Showing And Understanding Their Own Emotions
Babies who are later diagnosed with autism can show feelings in a similar way to typically developing babies.
It might look like autistic children dont respond emotionally, or their emotional responses might sometimes seem over the top. This is because autistic children can find it hard to manage their emotions. For example, they might get very angry very quickly, or find it hard to calm down from strong emotions.
You May Like: Life Expectancy With Autism
Were Too Honest For Our Own Good
You would think that being truthful was something you would want to promote but, in the interest of sparing someones feelings, apparently, were expected to lie from time to time and, whats more, if you dont then youre the jerk!
Known as a white lie, this is something many autistic people have struggled with, due to our literal way of thinking. However, recent studies into autistic people and lying have suggested that its not quite as simple as we wont lie because we cant. Instead, reports fromQueens University have found that, when autistic people do speak out of turn, its because we see the make-believe as mean and often believe that it will be less upsetting, to tell the truth .
Given the reasoning behind this, I think it would do more harm than good to try and change this behaviour in autistic people. So, if you ask us a question you dont like the answer to, just remember that this is an opinion an opinion which, though indisputable in our eyes, is not necessarily fact.
When My Son With Autism Melts Down Heres What I Do
Health and wellness touch each of us differently. This is one persons story.
I sat in the child psychologists office telling her about my six-year-old son who has autism.
This was our first meeting to see if we would be a good fit to work together toward an evaluation and formal diagnosis, so my son wasnt present.
My partner and I told her about our choice of home-schooling and how weve never used punishment as a form of discipline.
As the meeting continued, her brows became hawklike.
I could see the judgment in her expression when she began a monologue about how I needed to force my son to go to school, force him into situations that make him extremely uncomfortable, and force him to socialize regardless of how he feels about it.
Force, force, force.
I felt like she wanted to stuff his behaviors into a box, then sit on top of it.
In reality, each and every child with autism is so unique and different from what society deems typical. You could never fit their beauty and quirkiness into a box.
We declined her services and found a better fit for our family for our son.
Read Also: Does Gestational Diabetes Cause Autism
What To Do If You Suspect Autism
Firstly, do not blame yourself or your parenting skills. Its still researched and debated what the factors are that create autism in children. But it has nothing to do with how good or fit of a parent you are to your child.
Secondly, you will want to seek the advice of a medical professional in confirming your suspicions by booking an appointment at a development assessment center. For example, in the state of Texas, parents can book development assessment appointments online to confirm an autism diagnosis. Make a list of the various differences you notice in your child that you consider abnormal so that you dont miss anything that could help a potential diagnosis.
As previously mentioned, early intervention is key in helping your child develop coping skills for their autism as well as help your family establish an environment that will support your child. Sometimes as well depending on the severity of symptoms, intervention can possibly even reverse some habits and let them live a normal life.
Whichever the case, bringing abnormal behavior to your doctors attention is key for any suspected illness. Its better to be overly cautious and ask as many questions as possible than take a wait and see approach and potentially miss intervening early.
Where Should We Head Next
To date, human and mouse studies have shown that assessment of early distress vocalization can offer insights into the behavioral and brain mechanisms behind the earliest stages of development in infants with ASD. Striking similarities have emerged from human and mouse data pointing to how genetic components may create a specific physiological deficit that leads to the production of atypical distress vocalizations, which in turn jeopardizes the effective communicative power of the distress vocalization and finally hinders caregiver-infant interaction. In other words, a genetic component plays a major role in producing a specific phenotype that modulates the environment in which the phenotype is expressed . This can thus be seen as a complex dynamic of gene × environment effect in which the environmental factor is positively created, instead of being passively perceived , by risk carriers . Here, the environmental factor results from the behavioral phenotype of a genetic risk carrier and at the same time results in the augmentation of the genetic impact.
Read Also: What Is The Best Pet For An Autistic Child
What To Do During An Autism Meltdown
The first step to learning to tackle a problem behavior is always assessment. Figure out if the child is crying because of pain or because they are overwhelmed and lack communication. This is where we also evaluate if our demands are too high, and if our reinforcement is too low.
Then we need to make a plan. Part of that plan should be to spend 95% of our time preventing problem behavior, including crying. I have a simple paper calendar system to help keep track of crying and other problem behaviors. You can use it to stay on track. It really could help you start to turn things around.
Carry On The Conversation:
What are some autism misconceptions which you would like to clarify? Let me know in the comments below. And, if you want to learn the truth behind autistic meltdowns, check out this article: Exploring Autism: What is an Autistic Meltdown?
As always, I can also be found on Twitter and via my email: .
If you like what you have seen on the site today, then show your support by liking the . Also, dont forget to sign up to the Autistic & Unapologetic newsletter where I share weekly updates as well as a fascinating fact I have found throughout the week.
Thank you for reading and I will see you next week for more thoughts from across the spectrum.
You May Like: Autistic Life Expectancy
How Does Autism Affect Sleep In Children
According to a recent study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics, close to half of children diagnosed with some form of autism have significant difficulties with sleep. These difficulties can include problems falling asleep, night waking, early-morning waking, and shorter overall sleeping time. The cause of sleep problems in children with autism has not been found, but there is evidence that sleep issues can worsen behavioral issues and difficulties with social interactions.
The most common sleep problem in autistic children is, insomnia that delays the onset of sleep, according to an article by Spectrum News. Many autistic children may lie awake for several hours because they are simply unable to fall asleep, for a variety of reasons. Inability to fall asleep leads to fewer sleep hours, which can lead to an aggravation of symptoms like irritability and problems focusing. In addition to problems falling asleep, problems with sleep quality are also common in children with autism. On average, autistic children and adolescents spend about 15% of their sleep cycle in REM sleep, compared to 23% in non-autistic children. Going through several complete REM cycles in a night is what gives us good quality sleep, so spending less time in REM sleep through the night can be one of the culprits causing sleep issues in your child.