Five Ways To Damage Autistic Children Without Even Knowing
Yep, uncomfortable;title. But sadly, these are subjects that I feel we have a responsibility to talk about.
Today, Im going to share some habits that Ive seen in a wide variety of contexts: some of them in my career in education , some of them from;people dealing with me as a man with Asperger Syndrome, some of them Ive seen in the form of internet comments, and so on. Although often done unknowingly- hence the article title- these habits have the potential to do harm.
This is a tricky subject, I know, but these are five mistakes;that need discussing.;Youd be surprised how easy it is to make them.
Rather importantly, this is not specifically a guide for parents. It is a guide for anyone who has any contact with a young and/or vulnerable autistic person, whether they are parents, teachers, teaching assistants, family friends, and so on.
A Day In The Life: Raising A Child With Autism
I am the mother of three children, the oldest being Lil’ D, who is 10 years old and has moderate to severe autism. Lil’ D is nonverbal and sometimes aggressive. He can’t read or tell me why he can get suddenly sad or angry, but his receptive skills are remarkable. He also has a real connection to close loved ones. Raising a child with autism is a constant challenge, and being his mother is an exhausting, exhilarating, and lonely roller coaster ride.
Amal, our second child and our only daughter, is 7 years old and Hamza, our youngest, is 3 years old. With the varying personalities of three children , my husband and I feel both overwhelmed and blessed with love and support. How do we keep everyone happy and moving forward while assessing all the moods, behaviors, and responsibilities of Lil’ D’s needs? It is difficult to paint a portrait of what it’s like to manage the day-to-day life of a child with autism, but here I offer a realistic view of parenting a child with special needs.
We Are Incredibly Lonely
For all of the reasons already listed, its easy to see why being the parent of a child on the Autism Spectrum is a lonely experience. Parents are with their children all the time.;Many will be with them for the rest of their life. That makes joining a community of friends incredibly difficult. Divorce rates amongst parents of children on the Autism Spectrum is especially high. If youre a friend of a parent of an autistic child, ask that parent if theyre okay. Ask if they need something, or if you can help with anything. Showing them theyre not as alone as they may feel will go a long way in brightening their day.
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Being On The Spectrum Can Mean A Wide Variety Of Experiences
Autism is described as a spectrum of disorders for a reason. Signs of autism can present differently.;
Some individuals will have significant behavior and communication challenges that make the possibility of an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis more likely.;
In other cases, caregivers may notice occasional atypical behaviors but that dont immediately cause them to seek a full behavioral health evaluation.;
In the latter scenario, a; child may never have their autism diagnosed or addressed therapeutically. Its possible that mildly-expressed forms of ASD behavior go completely unnoticed.;
But another possibility is that an; undiagnosed child or their caregiver will feel frustrated by a lack of explanation for certain behavioral events. They may struggle with socialization, for instance, or they may lack commitment to extracurricular activities.
Ignoring the possibility of an autism diagnosis, especially if a; child seems mostly neurotypical, can make it more difficult for them; to adjust and; have their needs met. For this reason, teachers and caregivers who observe subtle signs of ASD should speak with a mental health professional.;
A childs parents, teachers, and others with a direct role in their life are the best observers when it comes to picking up on a possible autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. Only a licensed mental health professional can come to a full, accurate diagnosis, but you dont have to be a professional to suspect that an ASD diagnosis is possible.
Im Not An Autism Expert
If you want to learn more about autism and what its like to be autistic, there is one reliable source: a person on the Autism Spectrum. Parents of autistic children can tell you what it is like to live with a person on the Spectrum. They are experts on their own child. But the only person who can tell you what its like to live with autism is an autistic person himself.
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Communication Is Like Mixing Paint
Communication is really hard. Its hard for two reasons.
First.I say a sentence, and someone else hears the sentence but randomly inserts words into it. What I meant to say were the exact words I said, but they decided to hear some additional or different words. Ive already expended all of my energy into the first attempt. I dont have the energy for another attempt, so Im going to have to just go with whatever they heard.
Second, and more common, thoughts arent words, but words are the only tool I have with which to express them. A thought needs to change into something else in order for anyone else to understand it. I cant just lift the thought and give it to someone, I have to change it until it fits into a format someone else will understand. Having done that, I am no longer expressing what I wanted to. It reminds me of paint. If I want a specific shade of green, I have to take the blue and the yellow and mix them together. I have to keep adding bits of blue and bits of green until I have the shade I wantonly now Ive mixed so much paint that I dont know what to do with it all. I just wanted a bit of green. Now I have four different shades and a mess, and Ive wasted all that paint. Thats what turning thought into words is like. Its messy and wasteful and always results in an insane, unnecessary amount of words. Yeeshas_Island
What Are The Signs Of Autism Spectrum Disorder
Signs of ASD range from mild to severely disabling, and every person is different. The following signs are considered to be red flags that indicate your young child may be at risk for autism. If your child shows any of the following signs, please get in touch with your childs healthcare provider to discuss a referral for an autism evaluation.
The signs include the following:
- Your child doesnt respond to their name being called at all or responds inconsistently.
- Your child doesnt smile widely or make warm, joyful expressions by the age of 6 months.
- Your child doesnt engage in smiling, making sounds and making faces with you or other people by the age of 9 months.
- Your child doesnt babble by 12 months.
- No back-and-forth gestures such as showing, pointing, reaching or waving by 12 months.
- No words by 16 months.
- No meaningful, two-word phrases by 24 months.
- Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age.
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What If The Person With Autism Is Nonverbal
These same things apply even if a child is nonverbal, though of course more help and input will be needed from you.
Too often people assume a child who is nonverbal isnt listening. People believe that a child who is not making eye contact is not paying attention.
As autism parents we know that this couldnt be further from the truth, but many times people fail to take it a step further and make sure that the child is directly included in conversations.
Questions are answered for them rather than prompting them to answer. We accept it when the questions about our autistic kids are directed to us rather than to our child.
Dont do it yourself and dont allow others to talk over or around your child. Make sure that they are treated like the individuals that they are.
What Should You Know
Autism spectrum disorder is a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. CDC estimates that an average of 1 in 54 children in the U.S. has ASD or autism. Lets learn more
Follow the 8 steps below for your Web Quest.
Step 1: See what you think about kids with autism. Take the Fact Checkup!
Step 2: Think about some questions to ask. Lets see
Step 3: Check out some quick facts.
Step 4: Check out some great websites to help you learn more.
Step 5: Find out about people who have been diagnosed with autism to help with your Quest.
Step 6: Learn about movies and books that can give you information.
Step 7: Check out your school and neighborhood.
Step 8: Now see if your attitudes have changed. Take the Fact Checkup again.
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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.
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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Ten Strategies To Try At Home
As for ideas to try at home, I have ten strategies to share. But first, take a deep breath and remember that change will take place in small increments. I want you to give yourself at least a full month to consistently try the following strategies for helping your daughter become more comfortable around a broader range of healthy food:
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.
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Dont Assume Nonverbal Children Cant Communicate
Many children with autism don’t speak at all. But never assume that they don’t have something to say.;
For children with autism, behavior is a form of communication. That includes:
- Walking away
Listen to what the child is trying to say. Ignore it, and the behavior may escalate until the child gets the point across.;
When It Comes To Autism One Size Doesnt Fit All
If you put a PlayStation game into an Xbox, would it work? Of course not. So does that mean the Xbox is broken? No. The same thing applies for a child with autism. Just because they dont learn the way typical children do doesnt mean there is something wrong with them. It means that we as parents, caregivers, friends, neighbors and teachers need to find different ways to try and make a connection.
Laura Jones, Lambertville, New Jersey
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The Arrival Home After School
When the bus arrives, I meet Lil’ D at the bus door and escort him into the house. His demeanor when he comes off the bus usually sets the tone and schedule for the next few hours. Will he be happy or sad? Will he seek hugs and tickles or want to be left alone? I read the signs to know what the next two hours will be like. At the start of this school year, he left the bus upset, crying, and hungry. Now, whether he’s upset or not, Lil’ D comes straight inside and immediately requests beads. Our house is littered with strands of metal beads, which are his favorite thing. He will spend the next hour twirling beads repeatedly on a variety of objects and pairing this perseverative behavior called “stimming” with loud vocal noises.
Many kids with autism have something they “stim” on — it alternately grounds or excites them, and they withdraw into that particular activity and avoid dealing with the world. The bulk of our work with Lil’ D is to pull him out of the silent world he retreats into, but after he’s had seven hours interacting with teachers and aides, I allow him an hour of “stimming” time followed by a snack. Many kids want to be left alone after school, and I think Lil’ D is no different, so I honor that.
How Is Nonspeaking Autism Diagnosed
Diagnosing nonspeaking autism is a multiphase process.
A pediatrician may be the first healthcare professional to screen a child for ASD. Parents, seeing unexpected symptoms such as a lack of speaking, may bring their concerns to their childs doctor.
The medical professional may request a variety of tests that could help rule out other possible causes. These include:
Some pediatricians may refer children to a developmental-behavioral pediatrician. These doctors specialize in treating conditions such as autism.
This medical professional may request additional tests and reports, which could include:
- a full medical history for the child and parents
- a review of the mothers pregnancy and any complications or issues that arose during it
- a breakdown of surgeries, hospitalizations, or medical treatments the child has had since birth
Finally, autism-specific tests may be used to confirm a diagnosis. Several tests, including the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition and the Gilliam Autism Rating Scale, Third Edition , can be used with nonspeaking children.
These tests help healthcare professionals determine if a child meets the criteria for autism.
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The Balancing Act Of Rival Sibling Schedules
When Amal was younger, she was worked into Lil’ D’s schedule, engaging him in special sibling therapy and organized playtime to teach him to pay attention to her. Now, in addition to schoolwork, Amal has after-school activities , playdates, and language lessons with her grandmother. Meanwhile, Lil’ D sees therapists who visit him on four weekdays for two hours each day. Hamza, the youngest, is living the easy life for now. We are still bound by Lil’ D’s schedule and his limited tolerance for multiple activities. Almost everything we want to do for our kids or anywhere we want to go has to pass this test first: How will Lil’ D manage? Is it worth it? As the kids grow older, though, it is becoming more complicated to handle natural sibling rivalry and attend to individual needs. How will I manage Amal’s schedule with Lil’ D’s? Hamza’s needs haven’t even been factored into the mix yet.