How to raise an autistic child a parent’s guide
Being a parent of an autistic child is the most challenging task and these children need special care and attention.
What is autism?
Autism is a developmental disorder of brain function. It is a complex behavioural disorder that includes impairment of social interaction, delayed development of language and communication skills combined with rigid and repetitive behaviour in children suffering from autism. Autism affects boys much more frequently than girls. The causes of autism are not fully established but genetic factors, viral infections, pregnancy or birth complications, vaccinations are considered to be causing autism in children. Children with autism appear normal but are withdrawn and unable to relate normally with others.
How to raise an autistic child… a parent’s guide
- Adjustment to any situation that we come across in day to day life is the most essential human skill which most autistic children lack. They cannot handle surprises or big changes in their routines. They need a warning or clear instruction which would not cause them to become anxious or panic.
- Too much information at a time is very difficult to be assimilated by an autistic child. Using simple languages and short sentences would be very useful for them. Give them a few seconds to understand and respond to what you have told them. If they fail to understand the first time, do not rephrase the sentence but repeat what you have said in the same words. If you try to be aggressive with them they will on become slow in life and deteriorate further. Hence they need that extra time to process what is spoken to them.
- Every child suffering from autism presents with different set of symptoms. Ask the parents who are 24 x 7 with their child who suffers from autism rather than drawing conclusions on what is displayed in front of you. A few symptoms may be similar but only their parents are able to give the details which make them different from another autistic child.
- When you ask them to “Pick up speed”, which a normal child would understand that they need to walk faster, an autistic child would actually start looking out for an object named “speed” to be lifted from the floor. Hence using a figurative speech is always a task for an autistic child. Use language which is very simple for autistic children to understand.
- Autistic child could understand much more than what we think they do, but they may not be able to frame it into the words they want to actually speak. Sometimes they may speak lengthy sentences without understanding a word of what they are speaking. It is really difficult to understand what they know and understand and what they do not as they need to keep learning every time.
- Autistic children can stuck to one subject and become repetitive. They keep talking the same thing all day long and there could be barely anything that would help you to distract them. But they need to be distracted with patience because if they are not distracted, they will never learn something new. The situation of them getting stuck in a continuous loop has to be broken but with skills and without getting upset with them.
- Most autistic children appear to be disinterested in people or classmates around them and avoid them. A special school has an environment which can help them develop learning and social skills. If you notice that the child is not showing interest, keep trying as the same environment could never be created at home. Use every opportunity available there to teach them social skills over and over again. An autistic child will work towards a reward but will hide in a shell if he is threatened with a punishment. Hence, positive reinforcement would be better than threatening them with a punishment.
- Exaggerated sensory responses are common among autistic children which easily distract them and keep them from learning. Certain sounds may distract them or the touch of certain material may cause them to recoil or smell of certain foods, perfumes, air fresheners, etc may cause them to gag which would be normal for most other children. Please do not get upset with this and be considerate with these types of children. Overstimulation may seem like a temper tantrum but it is actually not and may lead the child to cause hyper-response. Tackling such situations need patience and skills.
- Autistic children need redirection throughout the day. The behaviors can be stereotypic or repetitive when they feel excited, bored or stressed. Their teachers and classmates need to be aware of this and be requested to deal with them more empathetically in such situations.
- Autistic children do not have the capability to differentiate the age and talk what they see in front of them. For example: they may tell you straight on face that your breath has a bad odour. Do not get offended or scold them for this and take it as a part of humor when you deal with such children otherwise they will recoil and never learn.
Kids with autism are not scary but they are just different. Educating yourself well enough after reading all the points mentioned will help you to deal with them more respectfully and help them to be as normal as possible.