Easy Ways to Follow on How to Deal with Raising a Child with Autism
Tactful Ways to Understand and Care for an Autistic Child
One day, I let my four year old daughter Faith play with her older cousins in our backyard. As I was preparing their snacks, I suddenly heard a loud cry. I have not heard Faith cried that loud before, but I was sure, it was her voice. So, I hurried towards her.
Me: Baby, what’s wrong?
Instead of giving an answer, Faith turned her back on me. So, I ask her cousins instead.
Michael: She wants to get my truck.
Belle: She wants my doll and all of my chocolates too.
This time, Faith cried out more. No, it was as if she were screaming. She dropped on the ground and wriggled. It took me more an hour to calm her down.
I carried Faith back to the kitchen. As I resume with my task, I remembered that in the past years, my daughter had not gained friends – neither in the day care center nor in the neighborhood. Her teacher often complained that she’s always moving around. Her classmates don’t play with her. I’ve observed that they were right but I thought that her behavior is just normal for her age. When I finally consulted a doctor about her behavior, I learned that my daughter experiences the symptoms of an autistic child.
This is just one of the many stories about a mother’s discovery about her child’s developmental disorder. In an attempt to help them in this challenging foray, I supported my own knowledge and experience with recent studies about bringing up a child with autism.
Different types of ASDs
Researchers have struggled to categorize the heterogeneity in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) for over the years. To improve the methods of subtyping, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) removes the multi-categorical system of diagnosing pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs), which included autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder (AD), pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD), and Rett’s disorder. DSM-IV diagnosing system is then replaced with a single diagnostic dimension: ASD, where its symptoms are best represented with a two-domain model of social-communication deficits and repetitive interests/ behaviors (RRB). (Rebecca Grzadzinski, 2013)
The illustration below shows the DSM-5’s proposed criteria and associated features to be considered when characterizing ASD samples.
Because autism has symptoms that require immediate attention, good understanding, and tactful response, I’ve compiled some ways on how you as a parent can deal with an autistic child. Here are the simple yet effective ways to help you in dealing with and in raising your child with autism spectrum disorder.
- Be educated. Know the signs and symptoms to be able to handle situations and keep the child at ease as much as possible.More than anyone else, you, as a parent, should be knowledgeable about your child’s condition. If you think there is something unnatural with your child’s behavior, it is better to have him checked by a doctor. If your doctor has confirmed that your child has the characteristics of autism, get time to think about careful ways that cater to his special needs.Recent research from the National Health Statistics Reports states that autism symptoms usually begin to manifest at the average of 18 months old. When an irregularity in the chemistry and biology of the brain occurs, an autistic child’s way of thinking is affected. While extensive research is ongoing, autism’s exact cause is still unknown (Stephen J. Blumberg, 2013).Moreover, further studies place great importance of early interventions in children with autism.“There is no debate or doubt: early intervention is your child’s best hope for the future. Early attention to improving the core behavioral symptoms of autism will give your child – and the rest of the family – several important benefits that you will not gain if you take a wait-and-see approach until your child enters school at age four or five.” Wendy L. Stone, PhD, with Theresa Foy DiGeromino, Med, Does My Child Have Autism?
- Be prepared. Especially inside the classroom, understand the risks and create a warm environment so that the child will feel comfortable and welcome in any situation. Know the best tactics. Most importantly, study and understand the child’s behavioral tendencies.
A. Follow the four-step meltdown response. Whenever your child acts up abruptly, perform these actions:
- Approach the child gently.
- Sit with the child to help regulate the behavior.
- Rub the child’s back or caress for encouragement.
- Sit the child up slowly and tenderly.
By the time you’ve used your best efforts and the child has stood up and calmed down, find a more peaceful environment for the child. Make note of the pattern of how this incident was triggered. Next time, you will be more alert and responsive.
B. Practice sensory activities. These sensory strategies for children with autism spectrum disorder have been proven to be effective for sensory processing challenges of a child suffering with autism.
What to do:
- Make use of a visual schedule for the child to establish a sense of control for everyday plans and to-do’s.
- Make use of a timer. The child should see this especially during free play as this sets a mark for a certain activity. Doing so creates smoother transitions and eliminates unpredictability the child may face.
- Give the child a 3-minute movement break (jumping, skipping, trampoline, etc.) for every 10-15 minutes of activity. When it involves academic work such as project-making, give the child a longer break, perhaps 10 minutes or so.
- Prepare a toy for the child. Often termed “fidgets,” a specific toy enables the child to let go of their restless tendencies. Instead of spontaneous physical movements, the toy or fidget sets off the child’s sudden reactions.
- Reach out, educate, and encourage support. Join organizations and share experiences or problems with others in your society or online groups, such as National Autism Association and Autism Speaks.You are not alone. There are a lot of families that are going through the same financial, social, physical, and emotional challenges. You may in turn learn from each other and know the next best moves that will be beneficial for you and your child. You will not only learn operative ways on parenting a child with autism, but also, effective ways to cope with the challenges and responsibilities that will come along the way. Being surrounded with a society that embraces your child’s condition will reward both of you an understanding, friendly, and welcoming environment.
A child with autism, like any other child, only wishes to be accepted and loved. Fostering an environment which builds on their strengths rather than weaknesses and showing understanding with a whole heart will eventually create more cohesion and progress for the child, parents, friends and the community.
Rebecca Grzadzinski, M. H. (2013). DSM-5 and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs): an opportunity for identifying ASD subtypes. The Diagnostic and Statistical Maunal of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, 1.
Stephen J. Blumberg, P. e. (2013). Changes in Prevalence of Parent-reported Autism Spectrum Disorder in School-aged U.S. Children: 2007 to 2011–2012. National Health Statistics Reports, 1.