When Parents React Negatively
Regardless of the child’s diagnosis, refer to Social Exchange Theory and Autism at the web site: http://groups.msn.com/TheAutismHomePage/socialexchange.msnw to read about a way to understand and deal with behaviors. If you have regular contact with the child, follow these general rules: expect the best from the child, don’t lower your expectations. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Ignore behaviors you don’t want to see repeated and pay attention to and reinforce behaviors you want to see repeated. You can do a lot with good, solid behavioral intervention. Also read A Way To Think About Autism.
Finally, and most important of all, pray. God knows autism, He knows the human heart, and He can open doors when they are closed. Be a support to the family, be a help to the family. Hopefully, your fears will be unfounded and the child will not have Autism – don’t worry about this possibility – just share their joy. You are not a professional diagnostician – you are a concerned friend.
But if the child does have Autism, be available and help the family find the resources they need. Listen to them, cry with them, and then roll up your sleeves and get to work with them. Thank you so much for being a concerned friend. You may be the person that changes the course of this child’s life for the better. As Mordecai said to Esther in the Bible, “Who knows if you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” . Be hopeful, continue to be concerned, and most of all, be there!
May Exhibit Difficulty Recognizing Facial Expressions And Making Eye Contact
From an early age, children learn to make eye contact with their parents, smile when they are being smiled at, and point or wave at things they find interesting, such as an animal at the zoo or a favorite toy.
Children on the autism spectrum have a harder time recognizing emotion in facial expressions and may show little to no emotion themselves. When something startling occurs , its actually normal for a child to look to their parent and in seconds process their facial expression to identify what emotion is being conveyed. This is done as a way to verify if they too need to be concerned with what just happened. With an autistic child, however, there is often no reaction at all, which for a parent, can be very puzzling and concerning.
Older children with ASD will often look at the ground or let their eyes wander when an adult is speaking to them; making eye contact is often a key struggle for children with ASD.
Because children on the spectrum have trouble reading facial expressions, they may fail to react or even react inappropriately when a parent or sibling is expressing joy, anger, or sorrow.
Parenting Reflections From A Dad With A Lifelong Autism Diagnosis
Christopher Scott Wyatt is an adult with autism who blogs about his experiences at http://www.tameri.com/csw/autism/. He and his wife are the foster parents of children with special needs.
What led you to discover your own autism diagnosis?
Since the labels kept changing, Im not sure they were helpful; if anything they limited options early in my education. Today, were ambivalent about the diagnoses of our children. It can help, and it can hurt.
Did learning that you are autistic affect your decision to have children? And if so, how did you make the decision?
Not really. We waited until we owned a house and were reasonably secure, which is probably more about our personalities in general. My wife and I wanted to offer a good, stable home for any children, whether natural or foster-adopt.
Did learning that you are autistic change the way you parent?
It’s possible that my autism makes me more patient, if only because were aware of how I experienced education and supports. Im patient with the needs of the children for quiet, order, and a sense of control. I understand wanting things to be orderly and predictable. They need that, as foster children, and they will need it if we’re able to adopt.
What kinds of parenting challenges do you face because you are autistic?
What are some coping techniques and strategies that you’d like to pass along?
Are there autism-related therapies that help you better manage parenting?
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Sharing An Autism Diagnosis With Family And Friends
Tips for explaining autism to family and close friends, to help them become effective allies
- How can parents of kids with autism help friends and family understand the diagnosis?
- What are some common misunderstandings about autism?
- Why do relatives sometimes dismiss the diagnosis or say you are overreacting?
Information On These Pages
On our new website, we are gradually introducing different guides tailored to the perspective and needs of different website users, particularly autistic adults, families and carers, and professionals.
The information on these pages has been moved from our previous website, but has not yet been updated so may not fully reflect current thinking and best practice or cater for key audiences.
We will be reviewing these pages to reflect the latest research, practice and opinions of autistic people, their families and professionals. How frequently we review information will depend on the topic: how much of a priority you tell us it is and whether there is significant new thinking, research, etc that needs to be reflected in our information.
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Why Should I Tell My Child They Have Autism
If you dont tell your child they have autism, theres a good chance someone else will let it slip, or your child will eventually figure it out themselves, says Kelly Price, a registered psychologist who assesses children for autism in Victoria, B.C. This is particularly true if your child is participating in programs and receiving services for people with autism because the A-word is bound to come up, he adds. You dont want someone else to spill the beans before youve had the opportunity to describe it yourself, he says, adding that its unfair for parents to withhold information about their child from them when they reach a certain age, and their child may feel betrayed if they do so.
Dundon adds that kids may feel ashamed if they find out theyre autistic from someone other than their parents because it may seem like their parents were trying to hide it. She says its important for kids to know that theyre autistic because it helps them understand who they are, particularly in relation to their peers. Kids do sense that theyre different, and not helping them see why isnt okay, she says. It causes distress because they cant fit in, they dont know why things are difficult for them, they feel like theres something wrong with them. When they do find out, its like, Oh, that explains it. But Ive had all of these years of thinking that I was somehow less than my peers and that there was something wrong.
How Is Autism Diagnosed
Doctors diagnose children as autistic by observing them at play and interacting with others.
There are specific developmental milestones that most children reach by the time theyre 4 years old, such as having a conversation or telling a story.
If your 4-year-old has signs of autism, your doctor may refer you to a specialist for a more thorough examination. A specialist will observe your child while they play, learn, and communicate. Theyll also interview you about behaviors youve noticed at home and may request input from your childs teachers or other adults who interact with your child.
While the ideal age to diagnose and treat the symptoms of autism is 3 years old or younger, the sooner your child receives treatment, the better.
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act , all states and Washington, D. C., are required to provide an adequate education to school-age children with developmental issues. Contact your local school district to find out what resources are available for preschool-age children in your area.
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Living With An Autism Diagnosis
Receiving an ASD diagnosis as an adult could mean a greater understanding of yourself and how you relate to the world. And it can help you learn how to better work with your strengths and strengthen areas of your life that are challenging.
Getting diagnosed can help you gain a different perspective on your childhood. It can also help those around you to understand and empathize more with your unique characteristics.
Better understanding the set of challenges you face can help you find new and inventive ways to work with or around those challenges. You can also work with your clinician and your family to seek treatments that may be right for you.
Emotional And Behavioral Difficulties
- You have trouble regulating your emotions and your responses to them.
- Changes in routines and expectations cause outbursts or meltdowns.
- When something unexpected happens, you respond with an emotional meltdown.
- You get upset when your things are moved or rearranged.
- You have rigid routines, schedules, and daily patterns that must be maintained no matter what.
- You have repetitive behaviors and rituals.
- You make noises in places where quiet is expected.
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What Is The Outlook For People With Autism Spectrum Disorder
In many cases, the symptoms of ASD become less pronounced as a child gets older. Parents of children with ASD may need to be flexible and ready to adjust treatment as needed for their child.
People with ASD may go on to live typical lives, but there is often need for continued services and support as they age. The needs depend on the severity of the symptoms. For most, it’s a lifelong condition that may require ongoing supports.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Through research, there has been much that has been learned about autism spectrum disorder over the past 20 years. There is ongoing active research on the causes of ASD, early detection and diagnosis, prevention and treatments.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/29/2020.
Rigid Eating Habits In Children On The Spectrum
Children on the autism spectrum are often very picky eaters. When mealtime issues arise, your first stop should be a pediatric gastroenterologist who has experience with kids on the spectrum, to make sure there are no medical issues. Other sources of mealtime problems include:
Sensory issues: Autistic kids often express a strong preference for foods that feel a certain way in their mouths. Some prefer soft or creamy foods like yogurt, soup or ice cream; others need the stimulation that crunchy foods like Cheetos or if a parent is lucky, carrots provide. In either case, that can put significant limitations on the different foods kids are willing to eat.
Underdeveloped oral motor musculature: Kids who eat almost exclusively soft foods may actually lack the muscle development that it takes to chew foods like steak or hamburger. Parents who dont know this is the cause of their childs distress will respond by allowing them to forgo the foods that would strengthen those muscles, so it becomes a vicious cycle.
Time and behavior at the table: Lots of parents experience the frustration of trying to get their children to sit at the table long enough to finish a meal. But with autistic kids the challenge can be magnified. And there is also the issue of safety. Unsafe behaviors might include throwing utensils or repeatedly getting up and running from the table.
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Find The Why For Autism And Hitting
Some kids have aggressive outbursts with people who put demands on them or try to tell them they cant have something they really want. Other kids have aggressive outbursts when theyre not engaged or when theyre bored or when theyre in pain. Another important thing to look at is when the hitting does not occur. So, if you said your son wont hit if he was given free access to his iPad all day long or if hes in a swimming pool, then that will give you important information as you make a plan to understand how to stop autism and hitting or at least reduce the behavior.
Ok Ive Decided To Tell Them But How Do I Do That
Before I go further, most of this section is written on the assumption that the parent is having a specific breaking the news discussion with their child. But plenty of my friends with autistic children have told me that:
Well autisms never really been a secret in this house. Weve always talked about it openly so our child learned about it early and has just always accepted it.
If that works for you, usethat.
As for how to break thenews? Two important words: make it positive,and make it personal.
Why positive? Because thefirst thing anyone learns about autism is that its supposed to be a badthing.
So with that in mind, beingcuddled up to your child in tears apologising for this demon thats taken overtheir body is not likely to help themgrow up with a positive self-esteem.
Of course, dont fake the positivity. Because there really are positives with regards to autism that dont need faking. Equally dont fake the lack of struggles either: as I often say, true autism awareness means being open and honest about the negatives but not letting them dominate the discussion.
And secondly, make itpersonal.
Your child will be far lesslikely to positively accept what their autism means ifits described as a cold, tick-box list style of symptoms, or like ametaphorical box theyre supposed to fit their identity into.
For each autistic trait theyhave, find a personal example of how it applies to them. For example,
Thinking of real-life incidents and memoriescan help too, e.g.
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Can A Child Be Slightly Autistic
A child can be mildly autistic. Every child with autism spectrum disorder is unique and so symptoms may differ in severity and range between individuals. Children diagnosed as mildly autistic are unable to understand the body language or emotions of the people around them, but they do have normal intelligence and can conduct their daily activities.
How Do I Tell Someone Their Child May Have Autism
I have been privileged to receive emails from many concerned family members, family friends, and professionals who have observed the behavior of a child they suspect may have autism. The problem they are faced with is that either they do not know how to tell the family of the child of their concerns or they have already attempted to tell the family and the information was not received well.
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Confronting Misgivings About Revealing Your Child’s Diagnosis
Before you talk to your child about his diagnosis, it’s imperative that you work through your own fears and misgivings; if you seem anxious or upset when you discuss autism with your child, he’s likely to pick up on your emotions and frame the information negatively in his own mind.
Parents frequently fear that their child will not be able to understand his diagnosis . They also worry that their child will shy away from opportunities he would otherwise embrace after learning about his condition, or that he might start to use his condition as an excuse to avoid doing things that are challenging for him, but ultimately necessary.
While it’s true that one or more of these issues may arise at some point, with patient and compassionate parenting, they can invariably be resolved. Likewise, it’s important to remember that most children – autistic and neurotypical alike – will bump into similar hurdles during their developmental years. What child has not worried that he is different from time to time, or limited himself in some way, or tried to find excuses to avoid difficult situations? Informing your child of his diagnosis and educating him about what it means will not make him more prone to encountering these natural stumbling blocks; on the contrary, giving him the information he needs to find solutions that work with his unique way of thinking, feeling, and perceiving, will make him more willing and able to move past them.
Medical Causes For Autism
Its not unusual for medical problems to be overlooked in kids with autism, especially those who are nonverbal. When evaluating your childs behaviors, its crucial to consider that some may actually be reactions to pain or discomfort from treatable medical or dental conditions that may have gone unrecognized. Kids with ASD may not be able identify or articulate the source of the pain or discomfort they are experiencing effectively.
Here are some commonly misinterpreted behaviors that may have medical causes:
- Gulping or grimacing
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Who Is This Child Autism Quiz For
Answer the quiz questions below to see if your child could have autism.
Below is a list of questions that relate to life experiences common among children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder . Please read each question carefully, and indicate how often your child has experienced the same or similar challenges in the past few months.
Please be aware that some behaviors are developmentally appropriate for your young child and are not signs of autism.
Tell Your Child Theyre Autistic When It Benefits Them
Why is the word themitalicised? Because it can be easy to fall into the trap of persuadingourselves that its the right time to tell a childbased on how it feels for ourselves. This can result in:
Autism can be a tough subject to discuss, especially for those who have yet to make peace with it or understand what it means for a child and their family. But remember that the person who needs to understand autism the best, the most thoroughly and the most positively, is the child themselves.
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Social Communication And Interaction Skills
Social communication and interaction skills can be challenging for people with ASD.
Examples of social communication and social interaction characteristics related to ASD can include:
- Avoids or does not keep eye contact
- Does not respond to name by 9 months of age
- Does not show facial expressions like happy, sad, angry, and surprised by 9 months of age
- Does not play simple interactive games like pat-a-cake by 12 months of age
- Uses few or no gestures by 12 months of age
- Does not share interests with others
- Does not point or look at what you point to by 18 months of age
- Does not notice when others are hurt or sad by 24 months of age
- Does not pretend in play
- Shows little interest in peers
- Has trouble understanding other peoples feelings or talking about own feelings at 36 months of age or older
- Does not play games with turn taking by 60 months of age
How Is Autism Spectrum Disorder Treated
The earlier treatment for kids with ASD starts, the better. Depending on a child’s needs, treatment may include behavior therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, medicine, and extra help with learning. The goal is to help kids:
- communicate better
- be safe and take care of their bodies
Before Age 3
Before age 3, kids might be eligible for services through their state’s early intervention program. Families work with a team of experts on an Individualized Family Service Plan . This plan outlines goals and comes up with a treatment plan.
A team of therapists provides therapy at home or in daycare to eligible families.
Services may also be available in hospital-based clinics or in community centers. Insurance companies may reimburse for many services.
After Age 3
Kids ages 3 to 5 years old with ASD who qualify are entitled to free preschool services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act . Therapy and/or extra learning help is offered through local school districts or other learning centers either at home or in a classroom.
When kids reach kindergarten age, parents can ask to switch to an individualized education program through the local school district. An IEP can include learning goals along with behavioral, social, and self-care goals. Special education services are available until a child’s 21st birthday.
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Four: Advocate With Others
The final step in autism-positive parenting is to advocate with others.
Because at this point, you are meeting your childs needs on a regular basis, and youre starting to solve struggles together.
Now youre ready to take everything youve learned over the first three steps and share that knowledge with others around your child.
Whether you are advocating with the school during an IEP session or making a plan with your mother-in-law for accommodations at a family dinner, advocating for your child with others is a huge part of autism-positive parenting.
When you can do this, youre able to help society meet the needs of your child, instead of them only being accepted and understood within your own household.
And the bonus here is that the more you advocate for your child, the more chance you have to model effective advocacy for them.
This eventually leads to your child building their self-advocacy skills, which is of course one of the ultimate goals of autism-positive parenting.
So to quickly recap, the four steps to autism-positive parenting are:
- Presume Competence
- Solve Together
- Advocate With Others
Now after reading this, you might still feel a bit overwhelmed.
Thats why Ive made it super simple for you to start.
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.
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May Be Easily Startled By Sounds Or Agitated By Background Noise
Although all children may exhibit adverse reactions to loud sounds, children with ASD have a particularly strong aversion to loud noises that may cause them to react by grimacing or wincing, rather than showing surprise or a normal wide-eyed curiosity.
It may be symptomatic of autism if you see your child convey their strongest emotions in the form of an adverse reaction to the music or TV being turned up too loud or if adults in the room are having a loud and animated conversation or if other children are playing nearby are making loud sounds or even when you run the vacuum cleaner.
This is something worth paying close attention to.
Because children with autism process the world around them differently, they may have trouble filtering out irrelevant sounds coming from the microwave or washing machine; sounds that would disappear as white noise in the background for neorotypical children.
These reactions may result in fits, crying, anger, or even physically aggressive behaviorthe reaction differs based on the child and the severity of their sensitivity to noise.