Interacting With A Child Who Has Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder. It affects how children interact and communicate with others. The disorder is called a spectrum disorder because children can be anywhere on the autism spectrum.
Children with ASD start to show symptoms at an early age. The symptoms continue during childhood and adulthood. Healthcare providers dont know why some children develop ASD. It may be a combination of genes they are born with and something in their environment that triggers those genes.
Children with ASD have trouble relating to other people. They have trouble making eye contact. They often withdraw into themselves. They may seem uninterested in relating to family members.
But some children with ASD may love to keep talking with family members, friends, and even strangers about a topic they are obsessed with. The problem is that they may talk about it too long. Or they may talk only about that one subject. This can push other people away.
If you are a parent or grandparent of a child with ASD, it can be heartbreaking if you feel like you just can’t connect with him or her. But learning more about these disorders and what has helped others can help you and your relationship.
Sorting With Snacks Activity
This tactile activity for children with autism can be a fun way to engage students during math time. Give everyone in your class a food that is easy to sort, like chewy snacks or small crackers. Multicolored snacks are ideal, but you can also use food that comes in different shapes, textures, or sizes.
First, ask them to sort the food by color, shape, or another characteristic. Then, use the snacks to teach students basic math skills like counting, adding, or subtraction. Once theyve grasped the concept you want to teach, reward your students by letting them eat the snack.
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.
Join Social Groups Or Schedule Playdates
As your child grows, find chances to socialize with peers and practice the skills learned in therapy. Parents of toddlers or preschoolers may consider joining a “Mommy and Me” class or schedule neighborhood play dates. These meet-ups can be a valuable learning opportunity for your child.
If possible, sign your child up for social skills training classes. These are specifically for kids who need extra help interacting with others. Kids learn about things like making eye contact, taking turns, and sharing. Most classes are led by a therapist or social worker, and might be covered by insurance or offered as part of IEP.
And don’t forget about social opportunities for yourself or your other kids. Many areas have support groups for parents or siblings of kids with autism. Being around others who are going through similar challenges can help you learn new ways of coping.
Beware The Extinction Burst Wait It Out
IMPORTANT FINAL NOTE: Please remember, whenever you start using positive reinforcement to increase a behavior, you are changing the childs environment, and he/she may have a reaction to that change. Frequently the reaction is an increase in the undesired behavior . This well-documented phenomenon is called an extinction burst, and the only way to handle it is just to wait it out.
So, if you see an uptick in the unwanted behavior, dont panic. Just wait it out. The undesired behavior will decrease fairly rapidly as the extinction burst winds down, and then the desired behavior will increase. With time and practice, your child will be able to sit quietly in the car, dining room and classroom and vocalize appropriately in a variety of settings.
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A Good Treatment Plan Will:
- Build on your childs interests.
- Offer a predictable schedule.
- Teach tasks as a series of simple steps.
- Actively engage your childs attention in highly structured activities.
- Provide regular reinforcement of behavior.
- Involve the parents.
Choosing autism treatments
There are many different options and approaches to ASD treatment, including behavior therapy, speech-language therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and nutritional therapy.
While you dont have to limit your child to just one treatment at a time, its unlikely youll be able to address everything at once. Instead, start by focusing on your childs most severe symptoms and pressing needs.
Tantrums Meltdowns And Takeaways
Both tantrums and meltdowns are manifestations of difficulty with emotional regulation skills and if they persist beyond the stages of typical development, can be associated with other diagnoses like ADHD, autism, sensory processing dysfunction, learning disabilities, depression, and anxiety.
While tantrums are behavioral in nature, meltdowns have a sensory, physiological basis that warrants different management strategies. While neither are fun outbursts to experience, focus part of your energy on proactively supporting your childs emotional regulation.
In the moments of tantrum or meltdown, use the guidelines weve outlined above to find what works for your child, and please share with Harkla what management strategies work for you!
“Autistic Meltdown or Temper Tantrum? by Judy Endow, MSW.” Ollibean. N.p., 10 Nov. 2016. Web. 25 May 2017.
“26 Sensory Integration Tools for Meltdown Management – Friendship Circle – Special Needs Blog.” Friendship Circle — Special Needs Blog. N.p., 18 Nov. 2015. Web. 25 May 2017.
Bennett, David D. “Decreasing Tantrum/meltdown Behaviors of School Children with High Functioning Autism through Parent Training.” Social Science. N.p., 04 Feb. 2014. Web. 25 May 2017.
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How Do You Handle Transitions For Children Who Find It Challenging
Many autistic and non-autistic children resist transitions. Convincing them to change activities can be triggering. Here are some ideas for making transitions, to sensory activities and back, easier:
Schedules can be problematic as sometimes we see our childrens needs shifting. Be sensitive to your childs needs.
At times, flexibility in the schedule is necessary for a day. Trying to stay ahead of the game can be one of the trickiest aspects, but enlisting your childs help when planning a day can go a long way.
This is especially true on special days that are already off routine. For example, a day at the zoo, knowing how your child may handle the off schedule, new sensory heavy content, and extra movement can help clue us in to when a sensory break could be helpful.
A snack time , and a point of reference for eating said snack that isnt time based, but event based can be useful.
I suggest avoiding specific descriptions such as After we see the giraffes because the giraffes may be unavailable that day. The more general you can be, the better.
Science Fiction And Fantasy
Science fiction and fantasy are often of great interest to people with autism. Depending on their interest levels and abilities, people on the spectrum may learn every detail of a particular “universe,” write their own stories, watch and rewatch movies, read comics, attend cons, or even build their own costumes.
There is a whole world of opportunity for hobbyists out there, at all levels. Find your inner caped crusader, and get involved.
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Playground And Outdoor Activities
Ask questions about why he doesnt prefer the equipment or only walks in circles around the playground vs. using the equipment as designed. Offer fun alternatives such as alphabetic scavenger hunts and finding items beginning with each letter of the alphabet.
These types of activities help children to use so many senses together. Encourage kids to play outside and in bare feet whenever possible. If your child is not fond of playground equipment, he may be letting you know that he needs additional therapy in order to overcome a fear or motor weakness.
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
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Hobbies And Activities To Enjoy With Your Autistic Child
Whether your child with autism is on the mild or severe end of the autism spectrum, many ordinary childhood activities can be challenging. It can be hard to work around sensory issues, social and communication challenges, and a preference for repetition and routine.
The result, unhappily, is that many families avoid trying new things with their autistic family members. But the fact that people with autism may not ask for company or explore new possibilities on their own is not a reason to give up. Instead, it’s an opportunity to find the best way to reach out and learn with and from them.
Verywell / Ellen Lindner
How To Teach An Autistic Child To Swim
In general, swimming is fun, a great exercise, and a therapeutic sensory experience for many children with an autism spectrum disorder. Moreover, water holds a unique appeal for kids on the spectrum because they are fascinated by it. But this fascination can be dangerous if coupled with a tendency to wander. Tragically, accidental deaths by drowning accounts for 91% of the total US deaths reported in young children with autism who escape from their homes, schools, or caregivers. It’s not uncommon for children with autism to find themselves near bodies of water, which can prove fatal if the child doesn’t know the appropriate breathing techniques.
Many experts suggest that teaching children how to manage themselves in water and follow the basic rules of pool safety is imperative for many parents. That’s why swimming is a life-saving skill, as well as a form of therapy and a drowning prevention strategy. Every child with autism should learn how to swim because it brings them joy and confidence. In addition, it helps them enhance their coordination skills, strengthen their bodies, reduce anxiety, and calm them down during sensory overload. Swimming offers multiple rewards such as blowing off steam, a way to enjoy the summer or trying some low-impact exercise.
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Your Child With Autism May Bring Out The Best In Your Family
“Our son is the oldest of our three children, and he has taught us all the importance of kindness, patience, compassion, listening and respect. These attributes allow our family to keep a very grounded and real perspective on what is truly important in life vs. what is fleeting, frivolous or simply not worthy of our energy.”
Stephanie Martin, Greenville, South Carolina
“It’s exciting and challenging because each day holds a new adventure. Despite the challenges of having a child on the spectrum, my life is perfectly complete. My son challenges me to be a better parent every single day.”
Yolanda Holmes, Greenville, South Carolina
Dont Wait For A Diagnosis
As the parent of a child with ASD or related developmental delays, the best thing you can do is to start treatment right away. Seek help as soon as you suspect somethings wrong. Dont wait to see if your child will catch up later or outgrow the problem. Dont even wait for an official diagnosis. The earlier children with autism spectrum disorder get help, the greater their chance of treatment success. Early intervention is the most effective way to speed up your childs development and reduce the symptoms of autism over the lifespan.
When your child has autism
Learn about autism. The more you know about autism spectrum disorder, the better equipped youll be to make informed decisions for your child. Educate yourself about the treatment options, ask questions, and participate in all treatment decisions.
Become an expert on your child. Figure out what triggers your kids challenging or disruptive behaviors and what elicits a positive response. What does your child find stressful or frightening? Calming? Uncomfortable? Enjoyable? If you understand what affects your child, youll be better at troubleshooting problems and preventing or modifying situations that cause difficulties.
Dont give up. Its impossible to predict the course of autism spectrum disorder. Dont jump to conclusions about what life is going to be like for your child. Like everyone else, people with autism have an entire lifetime to grow and develop their abilities.
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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.
This Is A Great Time To Parent A Child With Autism
“I am grateful that we live in the times that we do. So much new information has been discovered about autism. We live in the age of the internet and I can connect with another autism mom who lives several states or even countries over and talk about our shared experiences. I am grateful to have things like iPads that not only help my son communicate but also gives us a chance to share a moment while watching one of his favorite YouTube clips. A tip of my cap to the families that went before us. They really helped pave the way for the benefits my son has now. I hope I can do the same for the ones coming behind us.”
Eileen Shaklee, Wall, New Jersey
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Trust Your Instincts Even With The Doctors Advice
What I wish I knew way back then is that its OK to get a second opinion when your gut tells you the doctor is wrong. We knew that Gavin had autism. Yet, we were told he had ADHD, that he had anxiety and depression. It took his first psychiatric hospitalization at age 8 for a psychiatrist to finally say he thought Gavin had Aspergers. We were always told, Why is a diagnosis so important to you anyway? Its just a label. Because the right diagnosis means the proper treatment. Now he has a job, hes involved in school activities. Hes going to college in the fall to become a chemistry teacher.
Shannon Smyth, Lake Ariel, Pennsylvania
Lacy Gunter, Greenwood, South Carolina
Talking To Your Child About Autism
It’s your choice when you want to tell your child about their autism.
Some parents do it straight away, while others wait until their child’s a bit older. There’s no right or wrong time.
When you tell your child, it may help to:
- do it when they’re feeling calm or relaxed
- talk to them in a place where they feel comfortable, with no distractions
- explain they do not have an illness, but they might need extra support to help them with some things
- explain they might find some things harder than other people, and some things easier
- bring them to a support group to meet other autistic children
The Autism Easyread guide from the National Autistic Society might help you explain autism in a way your child will understand.
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Calming Activities To Prevent Autism Meltdowns In Class
When students with autism are feeling overwhelmed, the intense response that they feel may cause them to lose control of their emotions. This is called an autism meltdown and is different from when students without autism act out in class. While the best strategy for autism meltdowns is to seek help from a school specialist, these calm down activities can help to de-escalate stressful situations.
Repeat What Your Child Says And Does
A good way to make your child more aware of their actions and to help them focus on an interaction is to repeat what they say and do. This should not only attract your childs attention, but may make your child curious to see what you do next. The idea is that this should turn into a game where you both take turns imitating each other.
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Find Other Parents Who Will Understand And Support You
“It always has been invaluable to have other parents who are going through the same thing as you are, to call them up and say I cant believe this is happening to me today. Because to the rest of the community, the things that happen to us, theyre really not the norm.” Ruth Singer Strunck, the mom of two young adults with autism