Parenting 101: Parenting a child with autism spectrum disorder
The other day, I was struggling with some work related assignments when someone (my immediate manager actually) pointed out my struggles with understanding of simple instructions. Pretty strange, I thought given that I had been a good student overall. With such instances becoming common and I started noticing similar patterns in other fields of my life.
What was happening, I started wondering. Later I realized that this was not anything new. I had similar experiences all my life, but ignoring them. There, began path to self-discovery and a fear struck inside me. More about that later!
Is there a name to my way of things?
I happened to experience these symptoms:
- – Short attention span and getting easily distracted
- – Making too many careless mistakes, whether be it in homework or at work.
- – Losing things
- – Forgetful
- – Unable to listen carefully and/ or carry out instructions
Then I found out, there is a name for it – ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. There are support groups, treatments and therapies. Then I delved deeper and a thought struck – what if my one year old has similar difficulties in his future? After all, these issues can be hereditary and can get passed to my child as well.
This was problem #2. Exploring further, I found more about mental illnesses like Autism and voila! There are too many people, kids and adults alike, all genders and across ethnicities with similar issues. And what about parents, how hard is it. How to cope up with parenting of autistic kids or those with problems like mine, I wonder.
Let us start with symptoms of Autism:
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are symbolised by difficulties faced in social-interactions, communication issues and repetitive behaviors. However, it must be stressed that the intensity of these symptoms might not be same for all individuals.
The earliest symptoms might start showing up by the age of one year. Most infants are generally social by nature and would turn towards sounds, grasp fingers and may even start smiling by this age. However, the kids who tend to develop autism later in their lives happen to fail to respond to their names, delayed speech and reduced interest in other people.
Kids with autism happen to prefer to play alone and display difficulty in playing social games. Quite intriguingly, they do not seek any comfort in display of affection or anger by their parents. The ways of display of affection of these kids might be unusual and most people would get confused by the same.
By the time a kid turns three, he or she would have passed certain milestones. These include speaking a few words, recognizing their name and point towards anything they wish to have or to show. Besides that, they would express clearly their dislike for certain things with a clear expression.
On the other hand, speech development takes longer in kids with autism. There are noticeable delays in language and start speaking a lot later than most other kids. It needs to be noted here that certain therapies help kids with autism learn communication skills and spoken language. When the person starts developing language skills, there is an issue with forming meaningful sentences with two or more words.
Kids with autism have another problem – understanding body language, expressions and tone of voice. They may take things at their face value, for instance sarcasm. Their own body language may not match with what they intend to convey with their expressions, gestures and facial expressions. This may make it difficult for others to understand what they intend to convey.
Another significant symptom of autism is unusual repetitive behaviors. Such gestures include rocking, arranging and rearranging objects, repeating phrases, sounds and words, hand-flapping and twirling. Kids with autism may play with toys in certain ways instead of the intended ways. Instead, they would spend long time lining up toys, something very typical of this condition.
By now, you would have received fair amount of idea about the condition of the kid and you would be rather more concerned about his or her well being and future. It may be time to get your act together and get going. Here is what you need to do:
1. Seek a good therapist
Seek a therapist who has good amount of experience with autistic kids, and in speech, occupational and physical therapy. Diagnosis includes sensory processing, visual perception skills, communication skills, delayed motor skills and attention.
2. Find support in groups
You are not alone, not at all. There would be groups around you where you are sure to get a lot of support in parenting autistic kids, therapists and ton loads of other useful information that is going to help you in the long run. So, set out and seek support in groups.
3. Playing with special toys
Kids in Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) happen to display odd attachment with unusual items and have an attachment with switches, doors and drawers etc. They may not enjoy playing with usual toys and hence need to introduce special toys to them.
4. Communicate in 2-3 words
Autistic kids have difficulty in communicating in normal ways. You ought to communicate with them in ways which they understand. Hence limit your sentences to 2-3 words. For instance, phrases like sit down, lights off and bye toys would work better with them instead of using long instructions that they find difficult in understanding.
5. Play dates with kids
Autistic kids would find it difficult to maintain friendships and you ought to step up to fill the gap. What about setting up a play date with them in the local park, mall or any social event? It would be a great step in teaching social skills to the kids. Wondering about when to do that? Why not start now!
The above mentioned lists are not exclusive and there is a lot more that may have been left unsaid. We are working over more stuff related with the above topic. We would keep you updated with interesting stuff.
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