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 .
Hi! I am an ex-Digital Marketing Consultant, currently pursuing my M.A. Psychology(ABA) at McNeese State University, Louisiana. My son was diagnosed with ASD in Nov 2016 and this has vastly changed my perception of the condition. Most of us don't know what exactly is Autism. The biggest concern for autism is late detection which is related to low awareness. It's a fact that early detection and intervention is the only way to combat autism. Hoping to spread the message of autism through online and other activities.