How To Explain Autism To A Child Now You Know
Now you know how to explain autism to a child. Whether youre the parent of an autistic child, a teacher working with autistic children or a parent in general, its helpful to know how to talk to your children about autism.
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Telling Your Child About Their Diagnosis
Many children with high-functioning autism are included in mainstream classes and can handle a wide range of typical activities. Some parents worry that by telling a child about their diagnosis, they’re opening the door to trouble. Might the child lean on the diagnosis when challenges appear? Might their self-esteem suffer when they hear they have a diagnosable difference?
There’s no one right answer. Knowing they have a diagnosis may make a child feel like there is something “wrong” with them or feel stigmatized. On the other hand, children generally know that they are different and may feel relieved to be able to put a name to their challenges and seek out settings where they’ll have a sense of belonging.
Children with autism are diagnosed at different ages ranging from toddlerhood to adolescence, so the discussion will likely be impacted by the age of the child. Both a childs age and developmental level should be factors when thinking about disclosing the childs diagnosis and considering how to share this information.
Things Parents Of Children On The Autism Spectrum Want You To Know
It is estimated that one in 68 children are now diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum disorder, and yet, this diagnosis remains as misunderstood as ever. We simply do not live in a society that is accommodating or even accepting of those who are not neurotypical. Fortunately, parents of autistic children are wonderful at communicating who their children are and why. Below are 30 things those parents of children on the Autism Spectrum want you to know.
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What Is The Difference Between Autism And Adhd
Autism and ADHD are sometimes confused with one another.
Despite some similarities, ADHD isnt considered a spectrum disorder. One major difference between the two is that people with ADHD dont tend to lack socio-communicative skills.
Tips For Explaining Autism To Family Friends And Kids
If your child has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, you may be wondering what this diagnosis means for them and their future. Along with these overwhelming feelings of confusion and uncertainty, you may be wondering if you should share this news with friends and family and how you should explain it. The good news is, as you come to terms with this new future for your family, you will be able to better understand what and how to share with others It might just take some time. Here are some tips that will help you when you are explaining autism to family and friends.
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Who Should Know If A Kid Is Autistic
Ms Forbes says its the individuals choice who they share their autistic identity with.
Dr Attwood believes that for young kids, we should share a diagnosis only with those who need to know, such as teachers and grandparents. He says other kids dont need to know.
Instead of sharing the diagnosis widely, Dr Attwood suggests talking about autism without mentioning the A-word.
The child may say, Im the sort of person who is not very good at reading signals that show youre bored, Dr Attwood says.
The teacher may say Jacob is the sort of person who finds it hard to share.
The child decides who and when they tell people.
Autisms Genetic Risk Factors
Research tells us that autism tends to run in families. Changes in certain genes increase the risk that a child will develop autism. If a parent carries one or more of these gene changes, they may get passed to a child . Other times, these genetic changes arise spontaneously in an early embryo or the sperm and/or egg that combine to create the embryo. Again, the majority of these gene changes do not cause autism by themselves. They simply increase risk for the disorder
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Your Child May Not Fit Their Image Of Autism
Explain that autism is a spectrum of behaviors, and every autistic person is different in terms of onset, severity, and types of symptoms. For instance, some are nonverbal, and some are hyper verbalthey talk your ear off, though they dont engage in the back-and-forth of conversation very well.
Psychologist Mandi Silverman, PsyD, notes, We often say that children with autism are like snowflakes, no two are the same. Just because one child with autism looks and sounds one way does not mean that another child will.
Read Books & Watch Movies With Autistic Characters
Children love books and movies and reading books or watching movies can make it easier to drive a point home. When children see characters portrayed in books and movies, these characters make it easier to see that autism isnt something to be afraid of but is something to understand.
There are many resources these days that are available for you to go through with your child, your classroom or even to help yourself understand autism better. You can look online or at your local library to easily access these resources.
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Useful Resources For How To Explain Autism To Kids
Whether you are explaining autism to a sibling or explaining autism to an autistic child, it’s important to explain autism to a child in simple terms that are developmentally and age appropriate. These resources will help you explain autism to a child.“How do I explain autism to a child?”tips and resources for how to explain autism in simple terms
Do Symptoms Of Autism Change Over Time
For many children, symptoms improve with age and behavioral treatment. During adolescence, some children with ASD may become depressed or experience behavioral problems, and their treatment may need some modification as they transition to adulthood. People with ASD usually continue to need services and supports as they get older, but depending on severity of the disorder, people with ASD may be able to work successfully and live independently or within a supportive environment.
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Who Tells/where To Tell
Certainly circumstances vary from family to family. If your child is asking questions dont put off answering them. You should be forthcoming and not suggest talking about it later. Not providing an answer could increase the childs anxiety and make the topic and information more mysterious.
For many families, using a knowledgeable professional to begin the disclosure process instead of a family member or a friend of the family might be the best option. Having a professional involved, at least in the beginning stages of disclosure, leaves the role of support and comfort to the family and those closest to the child. For someone with an autism spectrum disorder, it can be especially hard to seek comfort from someone who gives you news that can be troubling and confusing. Having a professional whose role is clearly to discuss information about the childs diagnosis and how the disability is affecting his/herlife can make it easier for family members to be seen by the child as supportive. The professional discussing information with the child about his/her disability can also help the parents understand the childs reaction and provide suggestions for supporting their child. Having a professional involved also allows the use of a location outside of the family home for beginning this process.
Restricted Or Repetitive Patterns Of Behavior Or Activities
These can include:
- an increase or decrease in sensitivity to specific sensory information from their surroundings, such as a negative reaction to a specific sound
- fixated interests or preoccupations
Autistic people are evaluated within each category, and the intensity of their symptoms is noted.
To receive an autism diagnosis, a person must display all three symptoms in the first category and at least two symptoms in the second category. Get more information on symptoms and how they may manifest in kids.
The exact cause of ASD is unknown. The most current research demonstrates theres no single cause.
Some suspected risk factors for ASD include:
- having an immediate family member whos autistic
- genetic mutations
An ASD diagnosis involves several screenings, genetic tests, and evaluations.
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Do Use Metaphors And Picture Books
hairdryer brain vs toaster brain explanation1. “Autism is…?”Target audience:Description2. Ian’s WalkTarget audience:Description3. Can I tell you about autism?Target audience“Can I tell you about Asperger Syndrome?”Description:4. Different Like Me: My Book of Autism HeroesTarget audienceDescription:5. Autistic PlanetTarget Audience:Description
Share Suggested Ways To Interact With Your Child
When you first start explaining autism to friends, family, and kids, they might not understand all of the jargon and behaviors you identify. For example, they still might have trouble understanding the meltdowns, necessity for routine, or other behaviors your child exhibits. For this reason, you might want to share suggested ways to interact with your child.
You wont need to share your childs treatment plan with everyone, but sharing the dos and donts for your child may be important for adults who care for your child regularly, like a grandparent or teacher. So, walk them through your childs schedule and make a note of the importance of sticking to it for your child. Let them know of any sensory sensitivities your child has with certain types of foods. Make them aware of any goals you are working on with your child, such as looking others in the eyes, and how to provide positive feedback and reinforcement. Any suggested ways of interacting can help others better know how to communicate and care for your child.
If you have any questions about explaining autism to family or friends, contact us at Carmen B. Pingree. We offer various autism programs for children and will be opening an adult autism center in the Summer of 2020. We are dedicated to helping those with autism receive quality treatment and work towards independence and increased quality of life. Discover all of the programs we offer today!
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Talk With Other Parents
Parents making sense of a new diagnosis can sometimes feel overwhelmed and alone. Dr. Silverman says that one of the most important things, besides getting good treatment, is spending time with other special needs parents. Being in the company of other parents can make you feel strong rather than alone and isolated. Its important to have people who get it, she says. They can say, Someone said that to me too, and its so frustrating because thats not the way it is.
Your childs doctor might be able to recommend a local support group, or you could look online or network with other parents at special needs sports or activity groups.
Sesame Street And Autism: See Amazing In All Children
In October 2015, Sesame Workshop created Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children, a national initiative aimed at families and communities with children 2 to 5 years old. See Amazing in All Children offers families ways to manage common challenges, to simplify everyday activities, and to grow connections and support from family, friends, and community.
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What’s It Like To Have Autism Spectrum Disorder
A kid with autism might have trouble:
- talking and learning the meaning of words
- making friends or fitting in
- dealing with changes
- dealing with loud noises, bright lights, or crowds
Kids also might move in an unusual way or do the same thing over and over .
A kid with autism may have a little trouble with these things, or a lot. Some kids need only a little bit of help, and others might need a lot of help with learning and doing everyday stuff.
What Is It Like To Be Autistic
In case you are wondering if your child may have autism, the following most common signs of autism could be a good signal. Typically children diagnosed with autism spectrum are:
- Likely to be oversensitive by sight, sounds, and smell and touching which are normal for everyone else
- Likely to exhibit repetitive body movements, like rocking to & fro and making unusual finger movements in front of his/her eyes
- Likely to display strong attachments to certain objects around them
- Likely to get confused by changes in daily routines, often resorting to aggressive behavior
- Likely to observe even small changes in the people or their surroundings
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Facing The Demands Of High School
Meanwhile, the demands on teens increase dramatically. By high school, students are expected to change classes hourly, keep track of books and assignments for each class, follow complex directions, complete multi-phase projects, and turn in homework on time.
Amy Keefer, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, said schools and parents can help teens who struggle with planning, organization and other executive skills.
Teens on the spectrum will require a greater level of external supports from family and the school, Dr. Keefer said. Those supports may take the form of frequent parent-school communication, teachers checking assignment books to make sure theyre filled out correctly, and teachers helping students break down projects into smaller steps, with due dates for each step, she said.
Many elementary schools provide those types of organizational supports, plus help with social skills, she said. However, educators often reduce or eliminate such help in middle or high school, when students are expected to be more self-sufficient.
In general, as you move up the grades, the amount of support and scaffolding you get from teachers drops off, agreed Dr. Rosenthal.
That can cause problems. For most kids on the spectrum, they need those supports throughout their school careers, Dr. Keefer said.
Thomas And Friends: Many Moods
Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends are very busy helping passengers and moving cargo. But they are very touchy and lots of things happen during the working day. Try to guess what moods do they have during the day – suprised, angry, happy… You will learn a lot about human moods while helping these train engines. Watch the video below, or play the game online.
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Use Your Doctor If Necessary
If family members reactions dont seem to be improving, Dr. Rosenthal recommends thinking about why they might be resistant. He says three common reasons are:
- They dont understand autism so they push it aside.
- They think they know what autism is and they dont agree its the right diagnosis.
- They dont know how to handle it and its overwhelming for them to consider.
Ive had situations where Ive encouraged parents to have their extended family come in if that person was having trouble coping or understanding what was happening, he says. Psychoeducation can be helpful for everyone no matter what, and if that person has really big misconceptions about the diagnosis or is feeling helpless, this is an opportunity to educate him.
Dr. Rosenthal also notes that if you are currently going through the evaluation process, it can be a good idea to have your relatives come in for the feedback.
What Research Is Being Done
The mission of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease. The NINDS is a component of the National Institutes of Health , the leading supporter of biomedical research in the world. NINDS and several other NIH Institutes and Centers support research on autism spectrum disorder.
Nearly 20 years ago the NIH formed the Autism Coordinating Committee to enhance the quality, pace, and coordination of efforts at the NIH to find a cure for autism. The NIH/ACC has been instrumental in promoting research to understand and advance ASD. The NIH/ACC also participates in the broader Federal Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee , composed of representatives from various U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agencies, the Department of Education, and other governmental organizations, as well as public members, including individuals with ASD and representatives of patient advocacy organizations. One responsibility of the IACC is to develop a strategic plan for ASD research, which guides research programs supported by NIH and other participating organizations.
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Understand Autism Is Complex
Before you start talking to children about autism, what it is and how to see it in others, you need to understand that autism doesnt look the same for everyone. There are different levels of autism and while one person may exhibit behaviors in one way, another autistic person may not have that at all.
Some people may be undergoing ABA therapy and others may seek treatment in other ways.
When youre talking to kids, you dont want them to be on the look out for people that are autistic but instead when they do come in contact with kids that arent typical kids, you want them to not only tolerate but will welcome them.