Not Everything As A Family
There are activities that should be shared by the entire family and those that should not. Along with having regularly scheduled special times for each child, it is also important to remember that there will be some events when one child in the family deserves to be the focus of everyones attention. Children have told us that it is sometimes frustrating to have to do everything with their brother or sister with autism. In fact, there may be times when it may not be fair to insist that he or she be included. For example, if your child with autism cannot sit still for a school play, then it may be better if he or she stays home while your other child performs.
Why These Behaviours Happen
Many autistic children have difficulties with communication, which can affect their behaviour.
Some things that can cause these behaviours include:
- being oversensitive to things like bright lights or loud noises
- being undersensitive to things like touch or pain
- anxiety, especially when routines suddenly change
- not being able to make sense of what’s going on around them
- being unwell or in pain
These behaviours are not your or your child’s fault.
Two Words: Gentle Consistency
Children with autism pick up on things differently than other children. For example, your child may not pick up on the irritation in your voice when you ask them not to do something.
These misunderstandings can make traditional discipline techniques less effective. Your child might not understand the consequences of their actions, which can be frustrating. However, you should refrain from any kind of physical or verbal punishment that could have a negative effect on your child.
Instead, be gentle with your words and actions. If your child is screaming and having a tantrum, keep calm and dont raise your voice. All children learn through imitation, so try and respond to your childs behavior clearly and gently.
And now for consistency. Consistency is the key to safe, effective discipline. Most children with autism respond well to structured discipline, perhaps due to their desire for sameness and routine.
Consistent discipline can also alleviate some of your childs anxiety, a common characteristic of autism. Consistent outcomes help children feel secure and confident in their choices.
If your child knows what to expect from a certain behavior , they may not feel as overwhelmed when you discipline them.
In other words, consistency gives your child the ability to predict the outcome of a situation, which is a powerful and necessary step toward independence.
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Acceptance As A Path To Stress Relief In Autism
Another potential stress reducer is practicing acceptance, Dr. Keefer said. Parents who accept where their child is today seem to do better, in her experience, she said.
Unlike some other developmental disabilities, autism carries with it stories of “recovery,” at least for a minority of people.23-25 The possibility of losing an autism diagnosis, usually through intensive therapies, creates hope for some families. But it also can fuel stress: some parents may pack therapies into every minute and worry that their child isn’t improving quickly enough.
Dr. Keefer said focusing on the present can help. “I think the parents who do best are the ones who can celebrate each achievement and developmental gain as it occurs, and who aren’t focused on an ultimate outcome of where the child needs to end up. These parents practice being ‘in the moment’ versus measuring progress against some ideal outcome.”
Focus On Your Child Not Staring Bystanders
Meltdowns for any child can get noisy, but they tend to go to a whole other level of loud when its an autistic child.
These outbursts can feel embarrassing to parents when were in public and everyone is staring at us.
We feel the judgment from some saying, Id never let my kid act like that.
Or worse, we feel like our deepest fears are validated: People think were failing at this whole parenting thing.
Next time you find yourself in this public display of chaos, ignore the judgmental looks, and quiet down that fearful inner voice saying youre not enough. Remember that the person who is struggling and needs your support the most is your child.
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Accept The Child Fully
Some children with autism seem neurotypical until about age 2 and then they lose skills theyve gained. Its distressing for many adults. You saw the child a year or so ago progressing on course, and now the child seems different.
Dont judge the child by past behavior or development. Look for things to enjoy about the child right now. Accept the child the way they are right now.
My Autistic Child Is Not Trying To Be Difficult
As one parent stated about her autistic son on the popular website Baby Gaga, He isnt giving us a hard time. Hes having a hard time. No child on the Autism Spectrum is trying to behave badly when they experience a meltdown. The biology of autism is complicated and extensive, and much of it cannot even be tested for medically. Children on the Autism Spectrum have trouble with their methylation pathways. Their intestinal tracts do not absorb nutrients well. This impairs their immune system and guts, which then leads to issues in the brain. Because the brain and body of an autistic child do not always work as one, they have to express their pain and frustration in the form of things like meltdowns.
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What To Do When An Autistic Child Has A Tantrum
Now that you understand the fundamental differences between temper tantrums and meltdowns, youll recognize that the strategies to address tantrums are rooted more in behavioral supports and skill-building.
There are a number of parent-friendly resources that target tantrum management strategies and the majority of them focus on a three-fold approach/
Break Out Your Sensory Toolkit
Keep a few sensory tools or toys in your car or bag. You can offer these to your kid when their mind is overwhelmed.
Kids have different favorites, but some common sensory tools include weighted lap pads, noise-cancelling headphones, sunglasses, and fidget toys.
Dont force these on your child when theyre melting down, but if they choose to use them, these products can often help them calm down.
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It Won’t Always Be Like This
“During the hardest times, when my son wasnt sleeping or eating or when he melted down over lights and sounds, I wish I knew it wouldnt always be like this. I wish someone would have told me that the child I have now will grow and change and regress and thrive. You will feel frozen in time at different points. Know that it will get better. And harder. It will change.”
Kate Swenson, Cottage Grove, Minnesota
We Need To Hear We Are Doing A Good Job
This is, of course, true of every parent, but it is especially true of parents of children on the Autism Spectrum. Raising a child with autism is a lifelong learning curve. As more and more is learned about the biology of autism, parents must keep up with new therapies and decide if they would be right for their child. For instance, there are new supplements, dietary concerns, and feelings about a new friend or teacher. The list of things to keep parents up at night is a long one.
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Our Home Is Safety Proofed
Youre probably familiar with baby proofing a house. But while most families can take down the safety gates and doorknob locks once the child ages, families with children on the Autism Spectrum often have these items and more protecting their child from their homes inherent dangers. This is because many children on the Autism Spectrum are prone to behaviors that can bring about self injury.
Agree A Plan For Bonfire Night
Involve your child in the planning. This can help them to feel prepared and make the fireworks feel less unexpected and unpredictable.
If you’re planning your own fireworks display, find out as much about the fireworks as possible, including how they will look and sound, and plan when to set them off, so that you can explain to your child what to expect.
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Caregiving & Helping Others
If you are taking care of a person living with autism, its important to remember to also take care of yourself. Depending on the severity of their symptoms, the condition can sometimes be challenging to manage. Taking care of your own emotional and physical health helps you provide the best support for the autistic person you are taking care of.
Autism is a lifelong condition, but a person with ASD can live a relatively normal life with proper treatment and care.
If you have an autistic child, its crucial to be patient when communicating with them. Speak and clearly, and make use of their name often so that they know you are speaking to them. If you have a severely non-communicative child, you can also use signs and gestures to aid communication.
Behavior Problems Can Cause Safety Issues: How To Keep Your Child Safe
To be sure, some children are a danger to themselves. Its difficult to know why some kids lack a sense of danger, or why they do the things they do.
On the other hand, some behaviors may not be a result of a lack of sense of danger. Some behavior problems are rooted in obsessive compulsive disorder, an especially troubling condition for both parents and children.
But whatever behavior disorders may be causing these problems, we must take steps to ensure their safety.
For example, if you know your child might run out of the house, you pretty much need to keep her locked in the house while you and she are home, just for her own safety.
You can take some very simple precautions to keep him safe when home, such as installing double cylinder deadbolts on all doors that lead to the outside of the house.
Now, I dont mean you should never bring him out of the house. You can bring your child out of the house as long as you take all precautions necessary to keep him safe.
And when you do take your child outside the house, make sure your car is locked from the inside so your child cant open the door while the car is moving. Virtually all cars manufactured these days have safety locks that cant be unlocked from the inside of the car.
You also might consider attaching your child to you somehow if you think she might bolt from you when you are out of the house.
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My Kid Works Harder Than Any Other Child Her Age
As already mentioned, we do not live in a society that is accommodating to people on the Autism Spectrum. This means that an autistic kid has to work much, much harder to function just about anywhere they go. Behind that hard-working kid are parents, teachers, and therapists who are also working hard to help that child. An autistic child acting like their neurotypical peers has not been cured. Hes simply working 100 times harder to keep up, and thats something we should all keep in mind.
Treatment For Children With Autism
Child development experts agree that a child with autism should receive treatment as soon after diagnosis as possible. There is no cure for autism, but early intervention using skills-training and behavior modification can yield excellent results. This type of educational and behavioral treatment tackles autism symptoms — impaired social interaction, communication problems, and repetitive behaviors. It can also boost the chances of a child with child autism being able to go to school and participate in typical activities.
Other treatment options for children with autism include:
- Medication. Doctors sometimes prescribe it for children with autism if they have other symptoms, including depression, anxiety, seizures, or hyperactivity.
- Alternative therapies. These might include vitamin treatments, changes in diet, and a procedure called “chelation” that attempts to remove heavy metals from the blood. Although many parents insist these types of treatment work, researchers have not scientifically proven them effective for children with autism, either for symptoms or long-term outcomes. Chelation, in particular, is dangerous and should be avoided. Deaths have been associated with this type of therapy. You should always discuss the safety and effectiveness of any alternative treatments with your doctor before trying them.
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When My Child Is Having A Meltdown Please Stay Calm
Meltdowns occur because children on the Autism Spectrum often feel overwhelmed by their surroundings. Therefore, a sense of calm is required to end the meltdown and restore a childs feeling of control. During a meltdown, the parent will likely be busy trying to calm their child. A helpful person standing by shouldnt approach the parent and child. They can help by trying to make the immediate area as peaceful as possible. As Autism Speaks recommends, Scan the area around the child for sights and sounds that may have contributed to the meltdown. . . . Is there an alarm that can be silenced? A flashing display that can be temporarily turned off?
Dont Stop Trying To Include Us
Autistic children, their siblings, and their parents are simply people, and people like to feel as if they are a part of a community. Though spending the day with a child on the Autism Spectrum may come with a few additional challenges, continue to spend time with them. Ask families to come to the Sunday BBQ, ask questions to better understand, and invite the parents out for dinner and an evening away. If they say no, ask again next time.
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Signs And Symptoms In Children With Autism
Autism usually appears before a child is 3 years old. Some signs of autism may be evident as early as 10 to 12 months, and certainly by 18 months.
Varying widely, signs and symptoms in children with autism typically include:
- Impaired communication skills
- Difficulty making eye contact
- Repetitive behaviors and activities such as arm flapping, head banging, or twirling an object over and over
- Rigid behavior and difficulty with change and transitions
- Narrow range of interests and activities
Support Understanding With Visual Aids And Social Narratives
To support individuals with ASD understanding about COVID-19, communication is best when paired with visual aids or social narratives . These techniques will allow the person with autism the opportunity to process information in multiple formats given potential receptive communication deficits. Our hand-washing infographic and coronavirus at-a-glance infographic provide visual stories to share.
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Techniques For Avoiding And Managing Meltdowns
Children with autism can have a tough time managing their behavior. Even high functioning children can “have a meltdown” in situations that would be only mildly challenging to a typical peer.
Children with more severe symptoms can get very upset on a daily basis. Meltdowns and anxiety can make it very hard to participate in typical activities or, in some extreme cases, to even leave the house.
It’s not always easy to calm a child with autism, but there are techniques that can often be successful. Some require a bit of extra equipment that offers sensory comfort. Some of these items can be used in settings like school or community venues. If they work well, they’re worth their weight in gold.
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin
Medical Testing And Treatments
Routine medical tests are usually performed by traditional pediatricians, but these exams rarely reveal underlying medical problems that are often associated with autism, such as gastrointestinal problems, nutritional and metabolic deficiencies, toxic metal burden, and immune dysfunction. Unfortunately, many physicians believe, though incorrectly, that the only useful medical treatments are psychiatric medications to reduce seizures and behavioral problems.
Genetic testing for Fragile X syndrome can help identify one possible cause, and this testing is typically recommended when there is IDD in the family history.
The Autism Research Institute supports an integrative medical approach to treating individuals on the autism spectrum. This approaches often includes:
- Thorough medical evaluation for undetected underlying disease
- Nutritional support
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A Moms Guide To Coping With Autism
We live in a day and age where we are expected to put everyones needs before our own, but what we fail to realize is that there is only so long we can live in a constant state of stress and fatigue before our bodies start to breakdown and even the smallest tasks start to feel overwhelming.
And when autism moms feel overwhelmed, the effects can be detrimental on the entire family. Im serious! Your childs success with various treatments and therapies is very much dependent on YOU, and Im not just talking about the physical involvement of driving her here, there, and everywhere. Im referring to the emotional part as well. The parts that require you to engage with therapists and teachers and nutritionists and get onto your childs level and connect with her so she feels like theres at least one person in this world who is on her side.
Of course, this all sounds great in theory, but finding ways to catch a break and recharge can feel downright impossible when you have so many demands on your time each day, which is why we put together this list of tips to help overwhelmed autism moms.