Autism Spectrum Disorder causes a person to establish repetitive behavioral patterns and often impairs their social interactions with other people, or at least makes it more difficult.
Autism is typically diagnosed in childhood when different symptoms start to occur, usually before 3 years of age.
Spectrum refers to a wide variety of symptoms and severities within ASD. The symptoms and severities are so broad they can range from debilitating social problems while others are able to function independently.
ASD is an umbrella term that accounts for a number of neurodevelopmental conditions. While different types of ASD occur, common experiences among people with Autism include finding it hard in social situations and repetitive behaviors. Some children might show symptoms from birth, however they become more obvious as they become older.
The causes of Autism are currently unknown, however researchers have identified several genes that appear to have connections to ASD. A significant number of studies are in progress with the research aimed at learning how it develops.
Learn about Autism
When you are living with autism it makes sense to learn about it. The more you know about autism spectrum disorder, the better equipped you will be to make informed decisions for your child, to understand them and create an environment and life for them, where they can feel secure and thrive. This leads into becoming an expert on your child. Knowing what is challenging for your child, what does your child find uncomfortable, stressful or frightening?
Enforce Routine, Structure and Consistency
People with Autism thrive on routine, and the ability to predict the outcome of certain behaviors and places. A break in their routine or exposure to loud over stimulating environments can overwhelm a child or person with ASD. Knowing how to avoid or help your child deal with these situations in day to day life with make your child’s & family life less stressful and more positive. Having a schedule in place and sticking to it will help immensely. Children with ASD do best when they have a highly structured schedule or routine. Be consistent with your child’s treatment plan, routine and everyday life. Children with ASD take longer to apply what they have learned, so creating consistency in your child’s environment is the best way to reinforce learning. It’s also important to be consistent in the way you interact and communicate with your child and deal with challenging behaviors.
Create a personalized autism treatment plan
A good treatment plan will:
- Build on your child’s interests
- Offer a predictable schedule
- Teach tasks as a series of simple steps
- Actively engage your child’s attention in highly structured activities
- Have minimal stimulus in treatment room
- Provide regular reinforcement of behavior
- Provide regular sessions and session times
- Involve Parents
Have a plan that is customized to your families needs. For example, there is no point in having a treatment in place, that is highly structured as parent being primary teacher, if you have more than one child. Your child’s treatment should be tailored according to your families needs as well as their individual needs. If their speech is delayed, you will bring a speech therapist on board. If their inner core strength is pore, you will bring an Occupational therapist on board. You know your child best, so it’s up to you to make sure those needs are being met.
Ask yourself the following questions;
What are my child’s strengths? – What are their weaknesses?
What behaviors are causing problems? What important skills is my child lacking?
How does my child learn best? – through seeing, listening or doing…
What does my child enjoy? How can those activities or toys be infused or used in treatment to boost their learning?
When choosing treatments, it can become very confusing. Do you choose a therapy that focuses on dealing with sensory integration, motor skills, emotional issues and food sensitivities? Or Do you choose a therapy that focuses on reducing problematic behavior and building communication and social skills.
With so many choices it is extremely important to do your research and investigate thoroughly. This is your child’s life and the right treatment plan should treat your child’s unique array of symptoms and needs. This often requires a combined treatment approach that incorporates several different types of therapies. They often include speech-language therapy. Occupational therapy, which can include play based therapy. Physical therapy, nutritional therapy and more.
Find the help and Support you need
Caring for a child with ASD demands a lot of energy, attention and time. It is personally draining and there will more than likely be days when you feel totally overwhelmed, stressed and discouraged. We all know parenting is not easy, and parenting and raising a child with special needs can be even more challenging. In order to be the best parent, teacher and friend you can be, it is essential to take care of yourself and get the support you need.
Do not try to do everything on your own. There are ASD support groups in every town. There are endless online tools, forum groups and products you can purchase for sensory needs etc.
Joining an ASD support group is a great way of meeting other parents dealing with similar
challenges as yourself. This is somewhere you can turn for advice, a helping hand or support.
Counseling – Stress, Anxiety and Depression are real family issues when living with a disability. Therapy is a safe place where you can talk honestly.
Infants and toddlers to the age of two, usually are diagnosed with global developmental delay prior to autism. They receive assistance through the Early Intervention program. In order to qualify, your child must first undergo free evaluation for diagnosis.
For autism, a diagnosis will include a variety of behavior, physical, speech and play interventions to diagnose.
Once diagnosed Early intervention therapy will also include behavior, physical, speech and play therapies. Early intervention services are usually conducted in a child care facility. To investigate/locate or if you have chosen an Early intervention service for your child, ask your pediatrician for a referral and advice.
Special education services (3 years and over) Special education services or Special schools are offered as assistance as school-based programs. As with early intervention, special education services are tailored to your child’s individual needs, however they are based on government education curriculum. The aim is to place the children in the least restrictive environment possible where they are still able to learn. The goal is eventually is for the child to be able to spend at least part of the day in a regular classroom.
As a parent of a child with ASD, it is important to:
Know your child’s rights
For the best interest of your child, you have a legal right to;
Be Involved in developing your child’s IEP (Individual Education Plan) from start to finish.
Disagree with the school system’s recommendations
Seek an outside evaluation for your child
Request an IEP meeting at any time if you feel your child’s needs are not being met
Now that is all the therapy, educational advice out of the way.
The most important advice I can give as a parent, is to savour the moment. Take the time to celebrate your child’s successes as well as your own successful navigation through this journey. My last list of what I think helps;
No matter how exhausted you are, take the time to take your child and family for a walk. Get your child out into the community as often as possible. Have activities planned.
Join a parent group, it will create an invaluable connection.
If possible, volunteer at school functions and stay active in your child’s community. This is a great way of getting to know your schools administration, your child’s teachers and other parents.
Now that your child’s program is set and you have a few plans sorted, get a babysitter and go out. You and your partner need a night off autism once in a while. Even if it is for a few hours, a break will help.