Special Support For Your Autistic Child
September 1, 2022 / Posted by Marni McNiff / Blog / Comments (0)
By Jenny Wise
According to the World Health Organization, about one in every 100 children is on the autism spectrum worldwide. Every child is unique, and every child with autism is also unique. Outsiders who don’t understand Autism Spectrum Disorder may witness stereotypical repetitive behaviors and lump all children with autism into the same category. As a parent of an autistic child, you know how vastly different they can be.
While every kid is different from the next, what many kids with autism do have in common is that small things are amplified. Typical situations and stimuli for someone else might feel overwhelming to a person with autism, but, as PATH explains, parents who prioritize time with their kids and provide support and understanding in three key areas can help their children manage these feelings and responses.
Anxiety and Autism
Anxiety can form when children with autism are unable to communicate in the way their neurotypical peers can. In turn, they become frustrated and feel anxiety that wouldn’t otherwise exist. In other cases, anxiety is its own mental health disorder that’s masked by signs of autism. A child who acts out in a stereotypical fashion might be seen as having an autism-related behavior moment, but the truth behind the matter could lie somewhere else in the brain.
Anxiety can be difficult to diagnose in someone with autism because of communication barriers and the inability to make assessments through usual questionnaires. Your child’s therapist can provide guidance on how to determine whether your child has anxiety and also offer ways to help your child deal with those frustrating emotions.
For both yourself and your child, think about ways to organize a stress-free home. Establishing a calm and relaxing “zone” will help everyone feel better. The exact modifications will vary from situation to situation, but many families find decluttering the home and decorating with live plants to be among the most effective stress-reducing projects to initiate. The outside world can be frustrating and stressful for everyone, so making a sanctuary out of your domicile may be your best bet to cope with it.
Autism Speaks notes that children with autism tend to have sensory issues in which they are either over-responsive or under-responsive to stimuli. Some people with autism may be sensitive to lights, sights, sounds, touch, tastes, and smells. The result can be sensory overload due to difficulty processing sensory information and interpreting surroundings, often leading to anxiety and frustration. You might find that your child reacts negatively to being touched by trying to escape. This behavior is a result of a low functioning tactile system, which then leads to tactile defensive reactions such as clinging, lashing out, or running away.
Self-stimulating movements can also be tactile symptoms. If your child flaps her hands or gazes at them, then she could be self-stimulating in a way that interferes with other functional activities. Because the tactile system involves touch, pressure, temperature, and pain, there are several ways you can help provide relief and safety. Weighted items like vests and blankets can calm your child, improve focus, and reduce distractions by providing pressure in the right places. Carefully selected fabrics can reduce the irritation that your child may feel from being hyper-sensitive to touch. Soft furniture and the avoidance of sharp objects can protect a child who’s hypo-responsive to pain.
Autism often causes children to have difficulty with social interactions and understanding social cues. It can be overwhelming for an autistic child to learn basic social skills and communication methods that come naturally to neurotypical children. To get past these barriers and improve your child’s social skills, provide lessons on social interactions so they can better understand these situations. Consider these examples:
Using videos to show non-verbal communication. These lessons will teach them how to interpret other people’s body language, behavior, and tonality.
Using visual aids to give them a quick and easy way to look at things and remember.
Using personalized stories to help them learn what to expect in certain situations.
There is no “one size fits all” approach to autism. Not everyone on the spectrum has the same needs or solutions, and it’s up to each family to address the issues that are unique to their child. It’s important to be patient with the process. Every child will learn differently; as with all parenting choices, how you choose to handle the learning is up to you.
Photo Credit: Unsplash
Through support and advocacy, PATH empowers families and children living with disabilities or special healthcare needs. Reach out to find out more today! 1-800-399-PATH