If you have recently found out that your child has autism, you are probably unsure and unprepared about how to best help your child.
Having an Autism spectrum disorder has an impact on the way your child socializes, behaves and interacts. Although some parents notice their child is in the spectrum early, others take years to realize their children are autistic because of the wide range of symptoms that are sometimes only seen as a developmental delay.
Considering the wide range spectrum of symptoms and varying severity of this disorder, the treatment options pursued are based on each individual child. One therapy may work for one child, but not another. Fortunately, a lot more is known now about the Autism spectrum. Multiple therapies are now being used in a bid to help children with Autism have as steady a life as possible.
Signs That Your Child May be in the Autism Spectrum
Autism is a condition that presents itself early in a child’s life. In other cases, parents might be unsure or unaware of the symptoms and hence the child is not diagnosed. For example, children who are non-verbal are thought to be taking longer than expected to speak and will speak in time to come. Some parents are told the child just needs to interact with other children so that they can practice talking.
Unfortunately, this delay in seeking a diagnosis means your child will not get the early intervention required for children that are suspected to have Autism. A child with autism often has normal development in the first year, but starts showing signs of regression in the second year. This is the period when parents need to be keen on the symptoms as soon as they notice changes in the child’s development patterns or behaviors.
Some of the signs of Autism in children include:
- Poor eye contact and lack of facial expressions
- Delayed speech or suddenly stops saying words previously spoken
- Resists when you attempt to cuddle or hold him
- Doesn’t respond when called or appears not to hear
- Prefers playing on his own, even in the company of other children
- Finds difficulty in interpreting non-verbal communication like body postures and facial expressions
- Has limited and repetitive patterns of behavior
- Has trouble understanding simple instructions or directions
Therapies Used to Help Children Living with Autism
Children with Autism spectrum disorders show varying symptoms. While some children are regressive, others become aggressive. Before treatment is administered, a diagnosis needs to be given. The doctor or medical professional will analyze your child’s social skills, communications skills, and overall behavior over time.
Here are some of the therapies practiced for Autism treatment:
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Therapy
This therapy is used to help children learn new skills, and at the same time reduce problem behaviors. For example, a child who has trouble socializing is slowly introduced into the social scene that they will feel safe in, and eventually start interacting with other people.
ABA is also a reward-based motivation system that helps children to turn their newly learned skills into habits through rewards. The child will keep doing what he has been taught with the reward as the end game. In the long run, the child is expected to automatically use the new skill since it is now a habit.
Supplementary Educational Programs
Children with Autism spectrum disorder have a difficult time adjusting to the normal education structure, especially if it does not meet their needs. Having a structured program that involves the use of activities that improve social skills, aid in communication and the development of repetitive behavior that will lead to a positive outcome will be of more use and help. Working with specialists who understand how to communicate with autistic children is a plus in this therapy.
Therapy with Medications
This therapy works for children and adults. People who are autistic have a difficult time connecting feelings, thoughts and behavior. During this therapy, the parents and specialists can identify feelings and thoughts that cause a child to react negatively to situations. This way, efforts can be made to keep the triggers at bay.
In some cases, doctors prescribe medication, but these are usually given to counter other conditions that occur with autism. For example, antipsychotic drugs are given to help with aggression, while anti-depressants are given to help manage obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and depression.
Although there are general therapies used on autistic children, doctors understand that each child is different. The treatment given will depend on the severity of the condition and the symptoms. The entire needs to be involved in the process to ensure an autistic child is introduced to a routine that can be sustained by everyone around him.
Personalized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Regular and predictable activities and exercises help in this therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), or also known as Brain Training, is highly ordered and establishes rewarding and predictable successes. It is best to search for a learning centre that can provide individually designed programs and curriculum that will address each issue and weakness faced by your child. Do some research and make sure that the programs are delivered by trained and experienced facilitators or Autism specialists.
What Can I Do to Help My Child?
Apart from therapy and medication, here are some tips which will make daily life easier for you and your child:
1. Educate yourself
Learn all about parenting children with autism. Read articles about the common challenges parents face when raising a child with autism and how they eventually overcome those challenges. By reading up and educating yourself, you will be more prepared to handle the potential issues during day-to-day care.
2. Be Patient
Often, children with autism take longer to process information. This is where you need to be patient and slow down conversations to cater to his processing speed. It is perfectly natural to feel annoyed and frustrated when you have to repeat instructions to your child. However, you need to try and look at things from your child’s perspective. Each small step will help you achieve greater progress with your child. Hence, be patient and show your child that you understand.
3. Be Consistent
Children with autism face challenges in applying what they have learnt in one setting (such as school) in other environments such as your home. For example, if your child is using proper sign language to ask for a drink in school, you may want to ensure that he does the same when asking for a drink at home. This way, your child is able to remember and reinforce what he has learnt through social interactions and his learning environment.
Even if the program or school your child is enrolled in does not have a structured parenting education program, it is critical that you stay active in your child’s education. Being on the same page as the teachers will help your child learn more effectively.
When Should You See a Professional?
If you are experiencing the symptoms of autism as mentioned above for a long period of time, you may want to seek a professional to help you face those challenges more effectively.
Singapore Brain Development Centre’s training regularly produces multi-year gains in critical skills through Brain Training, Sensory Integration Therapy, Listening Therapy and Neuro Feedback. A customized program made up of different elements of these therapies have shown marked improvements for children with PDD, Autism, or Asperger’s Syndrome students. Find out more about the Autism Therapy offered and created by Singapore Brain Development Centre here and seek out the best therapy for your child.