WORLD AUTISM DAY: Tips to help you parent children with autism

WORLD AUTISM DAY: Tips to help you parent children with autism

Autism, a pervasive neuro-development disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication and restricted and re

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Autism, a pervasive neuro-development disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication and restricted and repetitive behavior, can be, to say the least, life changing for both victims and parents. It can disrupt every part of your life: your relationships, physical and emotional health, and other life goals. It begins to manifest from a very early age, the age of 3 specifically, even though some children with autism reach their developmental milestones at a normal pace but then start to regress. Just in case you are saddled with an autistic child, don’t despair, there is hope and help as long as you follow these strategies to help you tackle the special challenges and receive the unique joys of parenting a child with autism.

1. Learn all you can about autism      
Autism isn’t a contagious disease, you either have it or you don’t. Usually detected during a child’s formative years, experts know that early diagnosis, intervention, and treatment are key to helping young children with autism develop to their full potential. The primary goal of autism treatment is to improve the overall ability of the child to function. So it is best if you don’t stay ignorant about what autism is all about.

2. Get a strong social network
Parenting a child with autism is emotional and stressful; it affects every part of your being because of the lack of essential social interaction and communication between the child and adult. Therefore, making sure your child gets the help he/she needs as well as  your your child’s long-term well-being can only be possible if you get a strong support network in the event of an emergency. Support network such as:

·        A close friend or family member who is a confidant and whom you trust with your most personal feelings and concerns.

·        A friend or colleague you enjoy being with and who helps you survive disappointments and shares your victories

·        Your child’s doctor, teachers or therapists you can ask for advice on major decisions regarding his or her treatment

3. Teach your family about autism
Once a child is diagnosed, family members either stop asking about the child or the child is left out of birthday parties or other family gatherings. While these feelings are natural, you can help your family members cope by educating them as well about autism and the child’s specific needs. In addition, plan outings with other families who have a child with autism. Talking openly with these families can give you new insight and better ways of coping.

4. Review the recommended autism treatment options         
There is no cure for autism, but early intervention using skills training and behavior modification techniques can yield good results. So it is important that a child  with autism receive treatment as soon as it has been diagnosed. When considering any type of treatment for your child, it is important to know the source of information and to ensure that studies are scientifically sound. Accounts of individual success are not sufficient evidence to support using a treatment. Look for large, controlled studies to validate claims.

5. Learn more about behavioral training
Behavioral training teaches people of all ages with autism how to communicate appropriately. This type of training can reduce behavior problems and improve adaptation skills and communication. Consistent use of these behavioral interventions produces the best results for the child with autism. The child’s functional abilities, behavior, and daily environment should be thoroughly assessed before behavioral training and management begins. Parents, other family members, teachers, and caregivers of the autistic child should all be trained in these techniques.

6. Assess your child’s need for medication
While there is no medication for autism, there are drugs for specific symptoms that children with autism might display. Drugs have a limited role in improving symptoms of autism. However, some may help prevent self-injury and other behaviors that are causing difficulty. Medicines may also take a child with autism to a functional level at which they can benefit from other treatments. The effectiveness of these medicines varies. Side effects are possible and should be discussed with your health professional.

7. Learn more about diet changes     
Diet changes are based on the idea that food allergies cause symptoms of autism, and an insufficiency of a specific vitamin or mineral may cause some autistic symptoms. The child’s nutritional status must be assessed and carefully measured. That being said, food sensitivities are not proven to be more common in children with autism than in normally developing children.

8. Use caution with unproven therapies for autism        
The safety and effectiveness of some therapies used to treat autism are not known. Most have not been subjected to thorough, sound research and are considered nonstandard and controversial. Even if someone else has found tremendous success with an “unproven” therapy, it’s important to be cautious about a treatment for autism.

9. Plan time for breaks   
While there is no quick fix for resolving detrimental emotions like exhaustion or being overwhelmed when dealing when an autistic child, you can take measures to protect yourself so your child’s condition does not get in the way of your physical or emotional health. In the midst of the many appointments your child might have with speech or occupational therapists, fix appointments for yourself. Schedule regular dates with your partner, other children in the family, and close friends. Exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet. Staying fit and healthy is essential to your physical and emotional as well as to caring for a child with special needs. Seek help if you or your partner is feeling persistently overwhelmed or depressed, or the stress of caring for child with autism is affecting your relationship.  In addition, plan time for a break away from a child with autism. Trained personnel can help relieve you from these duties as needed.


 Autism by the numbers

  • 1 in 68 children has autism
  • 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls has autism
  • Autism is almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189)
  • Among identical twins, if one child has autism, then the other will be affected about 36-95 per cent of the time.
  • In non-identical twins, if one child has autism, then the other is affected about 0-31 per cent of the time.
  • Parents who have a child with autism have a 2 per cent –18 per cent chance of having a second child who is also affected.
  • About 10 per cent of children with autism are also identified as having down syndrome
  • Almost 46 per cent of children with autism have an average to above average intellectual ability