Every kid is special, isn’t it? We, as parents, love our kids, no matter what and are always supportive of their needs. It is normal for us to feel shocked and overwhelmed if our child is diagnosed with autism. Autism is a developmental disorder that surfaces from an early age. According to 2016 data, 1 in 54 children in the US is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as revealed by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. If you are a parent of an autistic child, you know how delicately every situation must be handled and how difficult it gets sometimes to handle your kid properly. Your fear and confusion can be eased if you are well-informed about the health conditions of your child, what should be done, and where to get help. Here is a brief about what is autism, identification, and treatment therapies.
What is autism?
Autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a range of disorders related to the cognitive, behavioural, and emotional development of a child. It is a broad range of challenges characterized by children related to speech, social skills, nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviours. Conditions of autistic disorder along with Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome has been clubbed into autism spectrum disorder.
Identification of autism –
ASD can be difficult to diagnose because it has no specific test. To diagnose a child with autism, doctors need to look at the child’s development history and behaviour. ASD can be detected as early as before 18 months of age. To help a child with autism, autistic care is required from an early age. However, sometimes people don’t get diagnosed until they are adolescents which means their development process has been delayed.
An autistic child may develop such symptoms from an early age –
1. A limited display of language and difficulty in communication or expression.
2. Having mood disorders and aggression.
3. Slow or no response to their names by the age of 1year.
4. Showing no interest in objects or people.
5. Using repetitive words or phrases.
6. Limited social interaction.
7. Intolerance to physical contacts.
The identification of ASD is not limited to these symptoms. There can be other symptoms such as avoiding eye contact and unusual reactions to taste, look, smile, smell, etc. The above-mentioned symptoms are common to various children diagnosed with ASD.
Therapy for autism –
Autism spectrum disorder, like other neurodevelopmental disabilities, requires chronic management. ASD is incurable and even with management children face several difficulties in communication and social interactions as they grow up. Treatment and management of autism aim to minimize the difficulties faced by autistic children and adolescents so that they can cope with the world and its daily challenges. Since ASD is a spectrum disorder, there are a variety of treatments unique to each disorder displayed by the children.
1) Occupational Therapy –
Occupational therapy aims at the child’s needs and goals. It helps a child with autism to get better at an everyday task like holding a spoon properly or tying shoelaces. The activities can involve anything related to school, work, or play.
2) Speech Therapy –
Speech therapy helps autistic children with speaking, communicating, and building their interaction skills. It involves various methods such as non-verbal skills, taking turns in a conversation, picture symbols, and signs, using and understanding gestures, and sign languages. Speech therapists also cooperate with parents of the autistic child to practice these skills daily for an effective result.
3) Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) –
ABA is a treatment process that involves a reward or incentive system to reinforce positive behaviours in the child and also to teach new skills. The parent of the autistic child plays the role here as they are trained to give moment-by-moment feedback on the child to help the child progress. There are different types of ABA each based on the needs of the individual.
4) Social skills class –
Social skills class aims at developing the social behaviour and interaction of the kid. The learning process is based on role-playing practice where the goal is to improve the social bonding of the child. The classes are taken by the therapist and parents perform the roles and activities required to help their child.
5) Therapeutic Horseback Riding –
Therapeutic Horseback Riding, also known as “hippotherapy”, is a physical therapy where the child rides a horse under the guidance of the therapist. It is suitable for the age group of 5-16 years. The therapy improves their social and speaking skills and reduces their irritableness.
6) Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) –
PECS is a form of therapy where the children are required to trade pictures for items or activities. It is specifically designed for helping the autistic children who are having difficulty in speaking or understanding. Though, it cannot be used for those kids who don’t try to communicate or show low interest in objects.
These are some professional treatments or autistic care for helping children with autism.
An autistic child requires a lot of love, care, and patience. Parents raising a child with autism face a lot of challenges. It can be very confusing to know the correct way for your child.
Here are some of the do’s and don’ts’s for parents –
1) Do not blame yourself or your partner – The first thing you must keep in mind is that your child diagnosed with autism is not your fault or your partner’s. No matter how tough the situation gets always try to be positive and think ahead. Be supportive of your kid and discuss the matter with the paediatrician of your child.
2) Research about the disorder and its treatment – Do thorough research about the treatment or therapies required by your child and act as soon as possible. There are various treatments for ASD depending upon the needs of the child. The specialist will enlighten you about the kind of treatment required.
3) Be consistent – The treatment process is a long-term phenomenon. If your child is under an approach, consistency of the approach is highly required for efficient results. Suppose the approach is helping your child to tie his shoelaces on his own, resist yourself from helping out the child by tying their shoelace.
4) Handle the tantrums properly – Children with autism tend to display excessive behaviour. Parents mustn’t give in to these tantrums as it is not best for the child’s learning. Try taking alternative actions instead of allowing the child to do whatever they want.
5) Don’t let your care and responsibilities rearrange your life – It is understandable that you love your child and want your child’s comfort at all costs. But you shouldn’t let your child’s comfort take control of your life. Like you should have your meals when it is appropriate and not just when your child is hungry. Make a strict routine for your child and stick to it.
ASD is a long journey for a child and the parents and entails a lot of hard work and patience. Like everyone else, they have a lifetime to grow and develop. Stay positive and focus on the progress of your child. Children are god’s gift to parents and your child is just more special.