For every parent, knowing that their child has ASD is a life-changing moment. Suddenly the world turns upside down. We question ourselves, try to find answers and it’s all confusion and chaos. Luckily, we are living in an age, when research on ASD is happening at a hectic pace, we are seeing successful results to treatments and most importantly there is a lot of information and communities to help us. The treatment for Autism is a long-term process, which involves medicine and therapy and of course, the child gets better with his age. (Note: Unless he has any irreversible physical or mental conditions)
When a child is diagnosed with Autism, parents are genuinely shocked and it takes few weeks for them to fully embrace the situation, that is to move from the confused to a battle-readiness state. There are many misconceptions about reasons for Autism which affects parents’ ability to take decisions which are:
Many believe that bad parenting is the cause of Autism. This is especially true in conservative/developing countries where people are reluctant to acknowledge that it could be due to Genes. Rather they attribute it to parenting skills. This places a heavy guilt on the parents. Your parenting skills have nothing to do with autism. Human babies are conditioned to learn by observing the environment and this quality is a function of their brain.Autism is a neurological disorder and not due to parenting.
Another favorite person to blame the kids being autistic is nannies or maids. While there is a possibility that children whose both parents are working may have less quality time with parents and can get habituated to excessive watching of Television, it is never a cause for Autism. Excessive screen time may lead to delay in language development but the neurotypical child will overcome it naturally.
I want to highlight this because the propaganda against vaccines is so powerful that even I thought of deferring vaccine for my child. In northern parts of Kerala, the anti-vaccine lobby is so strong that they are able to influence people into avoiding vaccines. The result is that many diseases which were eradicated have come back eg. Diphtheria. Do we really want to put our children at a great risk for an argument that cannot offer any proof? Its been falsely communicated that vaccines especially MMR vaccine is the cause of autism. In fact, there have been many studies which have been done to discover the truth but there has been no conclusive evidence. The developmental delays start to be noticed typically between 12 to 24 months and this is a period when you give the MMR vaccine. This is the reason why parents attribute the symptoms to the vaccine because that is the only visible action they could recollect. And they are oblivious to the changes happening in child’s brain. Most interesting is that after decades of campaigning, anti-vaccine preachers have not been able to carry out any study or bring out any results that could stand the scrutiny of science. There is a lot of talk on Mercury and aluminum in the vaccines but these also have been disproved and you can find more about this in the following links.
So once we have understood what Autism is, it’s much easier to help your child. Your child is like any normal child, but he lacks the social skills and he indulges in repetitive tasks. So we need to focus on these two areas to help him and it’s very important to not benchmark your kid against normal kids. Your kid is absolutely normal there is nothing that stops him from achieving what any kid can do. You need to understand that there are certain characteristics that would be with your child and you should focus on reducing/changing those behaviors or help him to mask it. Which means you need to teach him what is the right behavior. Teaching is not at all that easy, but it can be achieved if you focus on your child’s goals and build an excellent support network that includes his teachers, doctor, therapists, your friends, relatives. It’s crucial to understand that your child does not understand emotions so he cannot read your face and cannot reciprocate emotions so talk to him. Answer all his queries ( verbal & non-verbal), be frank with him. Right now as there no medicines that can cure Autism, options available are therapy and medicines.
Whether your child has classical Autism or High Functioning Autism, its advisable to put your kid into an intense therapy program.This means giving your child daily session of Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, and ABA. You can add other therapies like Music Therapy depending on the center where you enroll the kid.Intense therapy is crucial in correcting your kid and one should arrange for that. Always choose therapist and center wisely as ” A good therapist can do wonders ” and can be crucial in shaping your child’s future.
Autism brings with it many co-morbid conditions like ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), OCD ( Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) or ODD ( Oppositional Defiant Disorder). So when they exhibit these conditions, let us say your kid is very hyper. You have options to use medicines which will have side effects. So how do you take the decision? Ask yourself these questions.
And to reduce the child’s hyperactivity and aggressiveness, the child can go for swimming which is a great whole-body exercise.You could buy a small trampoline so that he can spend his energy while at home. Take him to a park daily which has activities like climbing, swinging etc.At home also you can give him activities that enhances his skills and attention like passing beads through a string, drawing, reading picture books, listening to songs.
As kids are unpredictable and may not know how to behave in unknown settings, its always advisable to keep a watch on them. Leave them free, let them enjoy under your watchful eye. This will help your child to stay clear of danger which he may accidentally cause.
You need to have a tremendous amount of patience. There can be instances when suddenly you can explode in anger as a response to your child’s behaviour. It can be breaking your computer or pushing a kid in public or running out of the house if the door is not locked. Your first priority should be to take control of your child. It should be kept in mind that the kid does not plan his actions but happens due to impulsivity or hyperactivity or its a sudden decision he makes without any reason. The child immediately forgets about it so however angry you become forgive him and tell him “no to repeat it”. Ensure that you dont present opportunity to do such things again . It can be locking the door always and keep the key somewhere where he cannot access or keeping your computer locked up when you are not using it.
Every succesful Autistic child owes it to their parents /grad parents for identifying their talents and helping them develop it. They are like ships without the rudder. We need to be their rudder so that they can navigate the “high seas” of life and take the route to reach their destination.
They are in a unique position because of their unwavering focus to things they like, attention to detail, ability to do repetitive tasks, not swayed by emotions . So we need to guide them by encouraging their interest in a area that utilises these skills.
One of the dilemmas parents face is “should we tell others about our kids being on the spectrum” . The doubt arises due to society not being sensitivity to needs of special children. There are countries which show a lot of concern and care for affected kids but there are more countries where it can elicit an unfavourable response. My view is that you should your state your kids condition wherever you feel that it would help him.
For eg: In schools,hospitals,extra curricular classes. The information will definitely help his teachers and students to be more aware of his condition and help him. Most importantly it will them to understand the kid better. We should also inform our immediate family members and friends so that they can also lend a helping handwhne there is a need. We should take all the help the kid can get.
Iin short, the best way to help your child is provide quality therapy immediately. Learn everything you can about Autism and the knowledge you gain will help you in taking care of your child at home. As the child needs long term support, therapy should be supplemented by home based ativitie. Take him daily for outdoor activities so that he is tired at night and will result in a sound sleep. Your child has some special quality or strength which you need to identify and help him to develop .
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The concept of screen time is relatively new. Today the whole world has become one big community due to the internet revolution. This has meant that people increasingly turn to internet devices for many of their daily jobs or activities. Individuals are 'always connected' via smart devices. Biggest impact in our lives have been on how we consume entertainment. This has given us access to on-demand movies, large collection of videos on sites like youtube and social media that's driving your social life. While technology certainly helps us, we parents without knowingly brings our obsession and dependancy on digital devices to our home. Your child grows up seeing the importance of mobile phone, laptop, tablet,TV in their parents lives and they also are attracted towards it or considers it an integral part of their life.
When our children grabs our mobile phones and starts using it,have we ever thought of the dangers they are getting into. Have we ever understood how its going to affect the crucial period of their life when developments in communication, reasoning takes place. Lets see what is the ideal time recommended by doctors and how we can avoid the dangers.
Aggressiveness is an emotion that is often misunderstood. Tantrums are defined as uncontrolled outburst of anger and frustration, typically in a young child.Tantrums in autistic kids are frequent. It can be a very overwhelming experience for both parents and kids. We need to always keep in mind that autistic kids are not like other kids in how they understand and react to situations. If we can realise how and why they react, then we can change our parenting approach. Both the kids and parents will immensely benefit in making their daily lives much more peaceful.
Unlike a child with no developmental difficulties who interacts with his environment and communicate verbally and non verbally , a child with autism has limitations in communication which can result in frustration as he is not able to convey his feeling or needs properly. Some of the reasons that could trigger a tantrum are :
The tantrums in public places are embarassing for parents but for the child, only his world exists and the surroundings does not have any bearing on his behaviour. So if your child has tantrum in a movie theatre, just understand that for him at that moment movie theatre do not matter nor does he know that he is causing inconvenience to other movie goers.The tantrums in public places are nightmarish experiences for parents because it can make you feel helpless and confused and you need a lot of physical and mental strength. Its like trying to hold a charging bull. While physically you can stop them for a moment or manage the situation, how can parents effectively counter the tantrums. How can parents confidently tackle it?
All we need to tackle the tantrums are observation, perseverance and determination. It is easier said than done! We know that the thinking , communication, cognitive abilities of the kids are different when compared to kids without autism. So, first we need to avoid bench-marking them with other kids. Each kid with autism is different and unique with their talents and and shortcomings. But we can avoid tantrums to an extent by carefully creating favourable environment for the kids. Here are the steps:
Step 1- Observe the child to understand his routine. Understand all his daily activities . Within couple of days you will find that he or she follows a routine in doing activities. The way they carry out activities like playing, or eating are done in the same way every day. If anything is changed a little bit, they may express their resentment. Also look what is his attitude towards each activity. The child may be excited with some activities and disinterested with others. He may carry out some activities like a normal child. Note down the situations that excite him or make him happy and and the ones that make him upset or disinterested.
Step 2 - Note the bad moments and see what exactly made it a bad moment. There may be a particular reason why a child hates an activity and throws a tantrum. It may be due to a person, thing, a phobia, sound or smell, effort required .We need to find out the exact reason.
Step 3 - Once we have identified the causes , we can look into how to modify them or change it completely so as to make it interesting and to avoid resistance from the child. Some activities may require minor modifications whereas others may require more effort from your side.
Step 4 - Now see how the child behaves after modifying the activities that earlier upset him or triggered the tantrum. This also would have given you valuable information on your child's likes and dislikes and will help you to control his tantrums. By reducing activities that he dislikes and increasing the ones that he likes. Lets see how we can use this valuable information.
Preempting the tantrum- A child who will insist for chocolates which is restricted as per the diet will throw tantrums if he is taken to a supermarket and given chance to see the array of chocolates . Either he will make tantrum or you will be forced to buy it which is not a good option as chocolates are known to make them aggressive and hyper. The best option would be to avoid shops or places where chocolates are kept in a tempting fashion i.e. avoid the trigger.Avoid the places,people,food,sound,activity that can trigger tantrum.
Intervention just before an episode- Since you know your child well, you can read from his expressions when he is agitated and going into a tantrum. He may make specific sounds, actions. There is a small window of opportunity where you can control him, if you do the right thing.What will work varies for each child but the key factor is dont bother about surroundings or people. You need to concentrate on it and focus only on averting the tantrum. For eg: If a child cannot stand 'noise of a drill and while you shop, if there is a sudden noise of drill what would you do. Will you 'try to speed up the shopping and hope that your child don't take notice of it' as you are not comfortable explaining the child's condition to the shopkeeper or 'rather ask shopkeeper to shut it down till you exit the shop'. As you know very well that the sound of drill can trigger your child, you need to avert the trigger immediately.
Intervention during an episode-
There are other techniques to calm your kid like gentle massage, giving a tight hug, teaching the kid to signal to you that he needs help or he is not interested.Also medicines for hyperactivity and aggression can be given if its found to be effective for the child. This will hep the child to be more composed and focus on other activities.
It may not be possible to avoid tantrums but definitely we can reduce it and make their life better by creating a friendly environment and help them to control frustration.
How do we detect Autism when we do not fully know the mysteries behind autism There are lot of researches being done in the world and there are scores of kids and adults benefiting from the new studies. But all the leading psychiatrists and psychologists have been unanimously advocating early detection of Autism as the your best chance of effectively overcoming autism’s influence on ones life.
Researchers are developing new ways to detect Autism and now its been recognised that children exhibit symptoms of Autism from an very early age and a trained medical practitioner can diagnose Autism from as early as 18 months. As a parent, one should be aware of the signs to be able to detect them in one’s child so as to make necessary early interventions.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) refer to a group of developmental disorders that appears in the first 3 years of life and includes Autistic Disorder (i.e., autism), Asperger Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). Children with an ASD diagnosis show difficulties in three areas: i) language and communication, ii) socialization and restricted interests and/or repetitive behaviors. Many different symptoms can manifest within each of these areas. Severity of Autism may range from mild to medium to severe. Recommended reading What is ASD
The key to detecting autism lies in monitoring the child closely. The parent should watch whether the child is hitting the developmental milestones as a normal child would. It should be noted that while every child grows at his or her pace, and a delay in development does not necessitate autism or any other developmental disorder, parents should not wait for the child to outgrow the problem.
If the child has delay in hitting the milestone, parents should meet their pediatrician and discuss the concerns. The pediatrician is trained to conduct an initial screening and can refer to a specialist psychiatrist if further assessment is required. A child psychiatrist can easily detect autism and would be in a better position to guide you for future treatment.
Some children with autism spectrum disorder start to develop communication skills and then regress, usually between 12 and 24 months. For example, a child who was communicating with words such as “mommy” or “up” may stop using language entirely, or a child may stop playing social games he or she used to enjoy such as peek-a-boo, patty cake, or waving “bye-bye.” Any loss of speech, babbling, gestures, or social skills should be taken very seriously, as regression is a major red flag for autism.
The following delays warrant an immediate evaluation by your child’s pediatrician:
The best way for parents to detect autism would be to watch closely the childs milestones and consult the paedtrician if you find anything that need to be discussed.
What is Autism? Before we learn of Autism, we need to understand 'Autism spectrum disorder' or ASD. ASD is a group of developmental disorders that impacts the nervous system and affects the overall cognitive, emotional, social and physical health of the affected individual. Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) appear in the first 3 years of life and includes Autistic Disorder (i.e., autism), Asperger Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). Children with an ASD diagnosis show difficulties in three areas. i) language and communication, ii) socialization and restricted interests and/or repetitive behaviors. Many different symptoms can manifest within each of these areas. Autism is the most common condition in Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Autism is characterized by impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and unusual, repetitive, or severely limited activities and interests. Severity of Autism may range from mild to medium to severe.
There is often nothing about how people with Autism that sets them apart from other people. They may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with Autism can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with Autism need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.
Initially, autism was thought to be an early form of schizophrenia, which led to the belief that its onset could be caused by negative experience or bad parenting. Its been proved that this is not the case. Current research will argue that autism causes are generally a combination of two factors. A genetic factor, which is transmitted through various DNA types, as well as factors of an environmental nature. This has not been scientifically proven of course, but new studies show that these two factors could be prime autism causes.
The more likely theory is that autism could be a result of a genetic disorder. Families where autism is present are more often prone to having children with autistic tendencies. Also there is a risk that when there is an autistic child in your family, the chances of another child with autism symptoms being born is greatly increased. Evidence shows that certain food products may contribute to the causing of autism. These products will include gluten which is wheat and also certain dairy products. The evidence is unfortunately not yet strong enough to support the theory of certain researches who feel that certain food items can cause autism at the early stages of children development. The most believable cause of autism can probably be that it is something involving a genetic disorder. Treating this disorder with the necessary attention will only ensure that the person with autism be as comfortable as possible and also be able to gradually respond to certain programs of treatment.
To overcome Autism, first and most important thing all parents must do is to screen their children for Autism if they notice any developmental delay in their child. While Autism is considered as a life-long condition, we can minimise the difficulties caused by the condition by finding it as early as 18-24 months which can result in early intervention that greatly benefits the child. Autistic people know that their condition cannot be classified as a disease but is rather a state which they need to learn to work around. All the treatments or therapies are designed to teach the autistic community ways to iintegrte into normal life.