Mental illnesses affect millions of people throughout the world. On a day today basis, people are born with developmental brain defects and there are not much explanations to pinpoint the causes of these disorders.
Autism is one such disease that lots of new-born children are born with. There is no easy explanation to this except the fact that there have been developmental defects in the brain of the embryo during the phases of development in the term of pregnancy. Scientists have been carrying out myriad research studies to pinpoint the causes of Autism in children.
While there is no significant single factor that can be solely blamed for autism in children throughout the world, the studies suggest that there are a number of genetic mutations that occur in the genetic material of humans that have the ability to cause Autism.
For those who do not understand the science of it, mutations are abnormal changes that occur in your genetic material, more commonly known as DNA; since development of an embryo is solely driven by the information present in this DNA that the embryo gets from both parents, these changes or mutations affect directly the growth and development of the child’s brain. A combination of these mutations coupled with some environmental risk factors the developing child finds itself at the risk of developing autism.
Autism can be very hard to deal with if you do not have the proper information about it. Not only is it hard for the patients that are going through with it but are also particularly hard for the caretakers, especially parents.
When you see your child struggling, you desperately want to help them but you cannot figure out how. We have written this book in order for you to be better equipped to take care of your child and yourself. So let’s begin.
Any disorder relating to the brain is very harsh on people going through with it. While it is very difficult to care for a special needs child and may easily seem frustrating and tedious, it is very important to always remember that it is not easy for them to be like that. Each special needs person is fighting a battle of their own. They fight every day with the world and with their own self which is the hardest kind of fight. Their lives are a constant struggle and they should get all the help they need from their loved ones, family and caregivers.
One particular disorder that is very common throughout the world and is not specific to a target location is Autism. This condition widely prevails throughout the world and children all over are found affected by it. Not only is going through the disorder difficult for them it can also be a huge challenge for their family especially parents. In this chapter, we aim to help you better understand your child and their needs and expectations.
1. What is Autism?
Autism is basically and in general terms is a term that is used to refer to a group of mental disorders that occur during brain development in an embryo. It is also referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD. A common mistake to think if all autistic children as the same which could not be more wrong. Autism comes in all different shapes and sizes. The kind and degree of disorder differ greatly from children to children. The children that fall prey to this developmental disorder usually display the same array of characteristics. They have difficulty in bonding with people and also with trusting them, they struggle a lot with verbal interaction and are easily startled by loud sounds and may take a disliking to a certain bright color to the extent of getting an anxiety or panic attack. They feel very deeply and observe very carefully.
A lot of people might not realize that autism is a fairly common occurrence throughout the world. You are not alone and neither is your child. There are a lot of people going through the exact struggles you are. This disorder affects as much as 3 million people just in the United States and well above 10 million throughout the world and across the globe. In fact, a matter of severe concern is that its prevalence has increased from 10 percent to 17 percent in the very recent past.
3. Causes of Autism
There has been constant and ongoing research on this topic to answer and address this very important question. Driven by the severity of the situation and addressing to the increase in the occurrence of Autism throughout the world, it became very demanding for the scientists to come up with an explanation of this disorder. Research released in the recent past indicates that the cause of Autism is no line on the rock. It is not the kind of thing you can pinpoint and put your finger on. As we know, a lot of mental disorders associated with developmental defects in the early stages of a child’s development in-utero. The studies published now indicate that scientists have been able to link the root causes of autism to a number of genetic mutations in the genetic material of human beings. There is no single mutation or change that can be held solely responsible for causing the disorder but in fact, the combinations of all or few of these changes in the genetic material are enough to cause Autism.
Apart from that, several environmental risk factors also contribute to putting a developing brain at a greater risk of contracting the mutations and hence develop autism. So it will not be wrong to infer that Autism results as the combined effect of genetic mutations coupled with environmental risk factors. Although it is not up to us to control genetic mutations we can, however, do our little part and avoid those risk factors that contribute to Autism.
4. Environmental Risk Factors
Although it is very easy to look over this class of causes of Autism, non-genetic factors also contribute and promote Autism in developing an embryo. Let us look at a few examples of the non-genetic risk factors.
- Conceiving a child in mature age. This applies to both parents.
- Maternal disease during the course of pregnancy
- Problems during birth, especially those that translate into hindered oxygen supply to the baby being born.
- Malnutrition during pregnancy
It is very important to realize at this point that these factors just by themselves do not cause Autism in children. They have been shown to increase risk where the presence of genetic mutation exists already. A mother can avoid the risk of having an autistic child by taking proper nutrition while being pregnant, planning for birth and being prepared beforehand, taking pre-natal vitamins which have folic acid. All these have been shown to reduce the risk of Autism in newborn children.
Understanding & Helping you Autistic Child
Due to being trapped in their own little world which they have created in their head, children with Autism rarely seem to connect to anybody. Over time, with the right care and bonding techniques, however, the children may learn to trust their primary caregivers. They seem to learn to be okay with a few people that they know always surround them, the ones that they are familiar with and the ones they trust. This is usually family members.
It is very important to realize that every autistic child is different. The disorder and its type and degree differ greatly from person to person. It is extremely wrong to take and treat each autism patient the same way. They have different mindsets, different problems and they need, desperately to be understood. In this chapter, we caste light on the same subject matter and will help parents and caretakers better understand how to take care and help your autistic child.
The list below summarizes the behavior of an autistic child compared to a normal one.
Oral and Verbal Communication
- Do not make eye contact
- Do not respond to voice and may seem to have impaired hearing
- Start making words and sentences but then speech comes to sudden halt
- Recognize close people like parents, especially mother
- Notice and are attracted to loud sounds
- Make words and seem to be learning more and more in a short time
Relationships & Social Interaction
- Do not seem to notice entry or exits
- Launch physical attacks on people without reason
- Do not make conversation at all and seem distant and out of reach.
- Seem to be offended and cry upon being left alone by mother and are uncomfortable with strangers
- Acknowledge close people they see daily and seem happy to see them – parents, siblings etc.
Observation and exploring
- Stare at a single object or event for a long span of time
- Seem to fall into the habit of doing a same repetitive action like moving back and forth while sitting or tapping foot vigorously
- Do not seem to be afraid of getting hurt. Do not avoid activities of harming self. Maybe caught hurting self with sharp objects.
- Have short attention spans due to increased brain activity due to age. Are interested in everything
- Try to move to places and struggle to grab objects even of out of reach
- Like to have toys and play with them. Appreciate bright colors and noises.
- Like to attain bodily comfort and avoid dangers such as intense heat.
Things to Consider
As we have discussed in the table above, all autistic children are different. This table has been made keeping in mind the standard behavior that most children seem to follow due to Autism.
These characteristic behaviors are found in most if not all of the children that fall prey to Autism. Children with autism do not seem to realize and pick up on feelings of the people in their surroundings.
They might fail to realize if they have hurt you or you do not approve of like something that they are doing. Do not expect them to understand like other children of their age.
They do not have an advanced and developed brain and they fail to understand the mood and vibe of the room. These are special needs children and it would be best to treat them as such.
While raising an Autistic child, it is of prime importance to consider that they are not just people who are mentally challenged. It is a major misconception in a lot of places that your Autistic child is to be kept in the confines of the four walls of the house. You could not be more wrong about that. It is important as well as healthy for them to take part if activities that are meant for their own kind. Here we are listing a few activities that you can consider for your child.
- Special art and coloring books to stimulate their mental activity in the positive direction.
- Stimulating video and computer games that are designed to steer their senses in the right direction while also considering their comfort
- Stimulating board games to promote their mental health
All these things can be a great way for you to bond with your child and make them familiar to a normal way of living, this will benefit not just you child’s health but will also be beneficial for the parent.
Consider Support Groups
It has been seen with all the problems with people that support is of utter importance. People with certain problems need to spend time with other of their kind who are going through the same struggles and challenges. This helps them cope and they realize that they are not alone.
People going through the same problems can better understand each other and form a sturdy support system for each other. Autism is not the kind of thing one can deal with alone.
So it is a good idea to find a support group for the patient. consider carefully your options and opt for the group which is most suited to the nature of the illness of your child.
Diagnosis and Symptoms
As a neurodevelopmental disorder, the symptoms and characteristics that fall on the autistic spectrum are many. Parents notice these signs and symptoms in their children usually at an age of two or three.
By changing the way nerve cells interact with each other to conduct impulses in the brain, autism affects the processing of information.
This makes a child who is suffering from autism, to be unable to process their environment, surroundings and the interactions with people around them. Children who grow up with the disorder inculcate their autistic tendencies into their personalities, which is why most people argue that autism should be treated as a general behavioral difference instead of a mental disorder.
Individuals with autistic, while lacking the social and neural abilities of a non-autistic individual, can, however, possess exceptional abilities. One such example is Temple Grandin, a world-renowned animal science professor and autism spokesperson.
Symptoms and characteristics
Autism is usually noticed among affected children at an early age. A child can begin exhibiting sign as early as 6 months that become more and more apparent by the age of two. Autistic infants exhibit signs such as a lower to almost absent response to any stimuli that may come from their surroundings.
Social interaction: Perhaps the most definitive sign that shows in an autistic child is their highly diminished and altered social perception and subsequent interaction. Autistic children respond less to any interactions with their parents or others, they smile less and often are unable to look at others, and even seem to be unresponsive when their own names are called out.
Toddlers with autism are unable to get their point to be understood as they lack the ability to make gestures such as pointing at objects, to make others understand. Eye contact is minimal with them and social norms such as taking turns to converse are also something they are unable to do.
As the child grows from infancy and by the age of 4 to 5 years, the social understanding is considerably diminished in them, with less and less interaction and communication with others, both verbally and non-verbally.
Autistic individuals lack the basic understanding of assessing other’s emotions and responding accordingly, which elicits this lack of social interaction in them. This is why autistic children have an incredibly difficult time in making friends and are often subjected to loneliness, as the quality of friendship is a stronger factor to them than the number of friends they have.
They experience a lot more sensitivity to this, which leads to cases of depression, tantrums and aggression. However, autistic children are still attached to their parents, in the case that they are their primary caregivers. Although, the way they exhibit this attachment differs from non-autistic children, which may come off as detachment to the parents.
Difficulties in Communicating: With the lack of social skills they possess, autistic children face a lot more difficulty in communicating with the outside world. The most obvious and primary sign of this is their delayed habit of“babbling”, whereby a child will communicate in a non-interpretative language or words before they develop vocabulary.
Autistic children will, on the contrary, refrain from any verbal and non-verbal communication and often be unresponsive to any communication they receive. In most infants, these traits can exist before the autistic signs develop, after which they disappear and mark a definitive symptom of autism. However, speech therapies can allow children to learn a vocabulary and speak in some form of words. This still does not mean that they can hold down proper conversations, or can form meaningful sentences even if they know the words.
Most autistic children also exhibit “echolalia” whereby they repeat word to word what the other individual might be saying to them. Children are unable to pick up on the body language of others, their emotions, the tone of voice and expressions and they may take it as literally as they can, for example, sarcasm is something beyond the understanding of an autistic individual.
Repetitiveness: It is highly observed in autistic individuals that they repeat a set of activities, actions or even verbal words in a time frame. These actions become a distinct telltale sign of autism in a child, when parents observe them exhibiting such actions in a repetitive and recurring manner over time.
These actions can include stereotypical behaviors for example, reverberating only a particular set of meaningful or meaningless words, or body movements such as head moving, body rocking, hand flapping, jumping etc. more compulsive behaviors can include those activities that act as anxiety and stress reducers such as, arranging things in a specific order, exhibiting rigidity towards following a set of rules, constantly checking things etc.
In autistic toddlers, this shows itself commonly as they like to arrange their toys in a particular manner the same way every time.“Sameness” or ritualistic behavior exhibits when an autistic individual engages in the same set of steps in an activity, every single day.
This could include a certain eating pattern, for example taking out the constituents of a food item, or vigorously following the same pattern of dressing up every day. Repetitive behavior can often also include self-injurious patterns or activities such as hair pulling, poking, head banging, scratching or picking on the skin etc.
Based on these set of symptoms that may or may not exhibit all at the same time, but later manifest one by one, a child can be diagnosed by a specialist, or by a parent who notice such patterns in their child’s behavior and neural development.
Educating Autistic Children
Due to their restricted neural development in comparison to a non-autistic child, it can a challenge to teach even the simplest of things to a child suffering from autism. After a diagnosis, most parents can resort to seeking a treatment, instead of building a routine for their child to accommodate their autism.
This is a lifelong condition, and autistic individuals can still go on to learn everything they want just as any other person. Whether you are considering to enroll your autistic child in a school that may cater to their condition, or are planning on homeschooling them yourselves, here a few important tips and facts to bear in mind.
The first and foremost thing a teacher or parent need to focus on is communicating with your autistic child. Knowing their lack of perception of their social surrounding, and the ability to understand and interact with others means that your child will need a special kind of communication. For each autistic child, this will differ.
Do not expect to get through to all of them in the same way. Some may be able to communicate with you using s a choice of words, while others will maintain their non-verbal personality. Your child may not respond if you say their name or point at an object. For this, communicate with physical touch instead of gestures.
When you are talking to your child and saying their name, hold their hand or touch them lightly on their arm to help them acknowledge that the name you are using is referring to them.
When trying to point to an object, instead of pointing, use your child’s hand to point or touch that object, to help them understand the meaning of the object’s name you are saying.
Once they start picking up on what a “table” is, or what does “food” mean, or who is “ben” when you say their name, begin using small two to three word sentences. Instead of saying “Ben, eat your food”, try saying “Ben, eat”. Build up their understanding of each word, its meaning, its implications and its representation. This can lead to you forming a special way of communication with your child, and use this to continue expanding their learning.
Pick up on the signs
Teaching your autistic child means you need to pay extra attention to every single one of their actions. Every autistic child can have a differing set of actions or activities that stem from the same behavioral pattern as with most children with autism.
Picking up on these regularities will help you determine the meaning behind them. Notice their body language for each and everything, or their verbal and non-verbal gestures.
If you notice that they move their head in a certain way before, for example, looking at an image, this mean they find it unpleasant. Similarly, if they say a certain set of seemingly meaningless words before an activity, then it may show their excitement or annoyance at doing it.
This will take time and an incredible amount of focus with attention to every detail. But earning your child’s behavior is essential to getting through to them in the way their condition will allow best.
Give fewer choices
You do not want to present your child with so many things at once that would send them into an overdrive. An autistic child has a very limited social perception, and this can include not being able to tell blue from yellow, and becoming overwhelmed by it.
When teaching them anything, keep the number of items and choices to the minimum. When asked to pick a number, give them only two or three choices, and make it as least confusing for them as possible.
Appreciating your child goes a long way in helping them learn and then retain what they have learned. Your autistic child is putting in all their mental strength to understand something, and for that, even the smallest effort should be appreciated.
This will also help your child form a bond of trust and friendship with you, and for an autistic child, this will aid in your communication with them. Give them verbal praise, and let them sense the joy in doing something right. Try giving them something more such as a toy they love to play with or a cartoon they enjoy, as a reward for their hard work. Use your attentiveness to find out what motivates your child the most, and use it to continually motivate them in order to help them learn their best.
A comfortable environment
The limited social capabilities of a child will seriously impede their ability to just fit into any learning environment, especially if it is a school with new faces. Extra effort and time will be needed to familiarize the child with the new faces and place. Start with a few days of this familiarization by one by one introduction to their new teachers and school environment.
Let them gain the comfort they have at home, naturalize with the objects and items in this new classroom and learn the new faces. If you are homeschooling, then familiarize them with the room or portion of your house where you will be teaching them, so every time you step in there, they would know it is time to begin learning.
Be very careful with any unnecessary changes that may make you child confused and find it hard to recognize. Keep the setting same throughout, do not introduce any new people than the ones they have become habituated with.
The items that they use in learning such books, notebooks, bag pack etc. should also remain the same throughout otherwise our child may reject them and throw an unwanted tantrum episode.
Skills for Autistic Children
As every human being needs to learn a certain set of skills for themselves, so do children with autism to help them move forward in life. However, their neural development differing from non-autistic children presents a challenge in helping them learn and use these skills properly.
Teaching these skills is no easy task either, and requires a tremendous effort on part of both parents, teachers, and others who are in the child’s life.
For an autistic child, it is incredibly difficult to pick up on the emotional signs of others and react accordingly. Your body language, gestures or even choice of words will not make your emotional condition apparent to them. For this, you can help them learn a few skills that can help them detect emotional responses from them, and help elicit responses from them too.
Face games: This is an activity used with children having trouble with social interactions, and can help them in understanding them. Try out an emotional response such as happiness or sadness and have your child mirror them. Try to get them to participate by starting with simple gestures such as sticking your tongue out or pulling your cheeks gently.
Emotion Pictionary or charades: Use cutouts with pictures or a word representing an emotion and then try acting out that emotion. Give a heartfelt demonstration of each emotion to help your child pick up on its meaning and implications. Have them try it out the next time and see if they understood it. There is even interactive gaming software built for these that you can use at home or school. You can use face masks showing a specific emotion and later use them as a quiz for the child to guess the emotion you are showing.
Autistic children feel difficulty in following the social norms most kids do such as turn taking, following rules and sharing with others. Use a set of games for your child to play with other and learn these skills. Help with their interaction by engaging them in games that require for them to share or pass on an object such as a simple ball pass from one to another.
Use gestures and words such as “your turn” when you kick the ball to them so they understand now is their turn to kick it back, and then say “my turn” when the ball reaches you to teach them basics of what turn taking means.
Appreciate having them follow the rules by saying “well done” and “good job” when they learn to take turns properly. Use visuals and videos demonstrating this skill with two people or more taking turns when passing around a ball to play and reinforce this concept.
Focus on the shared interests of your child with other children, and frequently invite them for play dates o if they are at the same school as your child, then encourage your child to interact with them more. Teach them the basics of sharing by providing them both with the same things so they can compare and see how they both have the same thing and can bond over it. This will elicit a certain compassion and trustworthiness in your child to think of another child just like themselves.
Expand their imagination
Children with autism lack the imagination that most kids have, but can still develop interests just as much. Helping your autistic child develop an imagination can help them be able to channel it into their interests and be creative.
Introduce them to TV shows and cartoons that excite their emotion, such as the little mermaid or the telly-tubbies. Find what excites your child and have them demonstrate it for you in order to spark their creativity. Encourage them to speak of their interest or communicate her liking for something.
You can further strengthen it by getting them daily use items inspired by these for example if your child is interested in sea animals, get them an aquarium, or sea world inspired pajamas and bag pack. Developing interests at this stage is a great way for your child to find a channel of communication, creativity and sharing.
It is not easy to deal with any kind of mental illness, especially those are centered around defective brain development. This means that the individual going through it is special and different from all the others of his or her age. They feel and look at the world differently.
These children have specials needs and need as well as deserve special care and attention.
Autism plagues over 10 million throughout the globe and it is a demand of this age to caste light on disorders such like. In this book, we have explained categorically all the information that you need to know in order to attend to a special needs child. It is very important to not to think of them as a burden.
As exhausting as it can sometimes be to take care of them, they really need you in their corner. To take care of them in a manner that is more effective for them as well as more convenient for you follow the simple guidelines and tips in this self-help book that we have designed specifically.
Autistic children are not demented. Always remember that they are just merely different and not impaired. Some of them, depending upon the type and degree of their autism, may seem slow but are actually very intelligent. They possess the ability to learn skills and receive education delivered in a manner that caters to them.
As we have discussed in this book, help them learn skills and hence improve their quality of life so they can at some point be self-sufficient to some degree. If you tend to them right, research shows that it steers their brain development in the right direction and they might even start seeming better.
Patience and care are all it will take. As a conclusive message, just love your child and treat them as good as you can with all the knowledge that you have equipped yourself with through this book and it will be better for the health of your own child as well as for you in the long run.
Diagnosing Autism – What A Parent Needs To Know
Diagnosing autism is a challenge. There is no medical test for autism, so doctors and mental health professionals must observe behavior and consider a child’s development as they determine a diagnosis. Autism is also a spectrum disorder. This means no two people will display the same behaviors. Quite literally, if you’ve seen one autistic child, then you’ve seen one autistic child. Individuals who display autistic behaviors can range from never looking anyone directly in the eye, to the consistent and repetitive banging of the heads or shaking of the hands to exceptional brilliance with no concept of how to interact with others.
Today, medical professionals are more successful at diagnosing autism. Some may feel the diagnosis is overused, but it is really a case of knowing more about the condition and recognizing it more easily.
There are two types of autism diagnoses. These are the medical diagnosis and the educational diagnosis. It may be better to get the medical diagnosis first since this will often make it easier to obtain other therapies such as occupational therapy, an applied behavioral analysis, and other medical services. Having a medical diagnosis will also make it easier to get services covered by your health insurance.
As you work toward an autism diagnosis for your child, you may also find there are other comorbid conditions present such as anxiety, sensory processing disorder or ADHD. It helps a doctor or therapist to treat these conditions if they are aware of an additional autism diagnosis.
One of the most important things to remember, especially as a parent concerned for their child, is that a diagnosis can take a while. Depending on where you live and the available medical and testing services, you may discover there is a year-long waiting list just to be tested. It is very common for a medical diagnosis to take several months and an educational diagnosis even longer. Remain patient, but be persistent. You are your child’s advocate.
The healthcare provider may want to rule out everything else before they make an autism diagnosis. They may consider auditory issues, developmental issues, and many other conditions before they will diagnose autism. Continue to emphasize your child’s issues and challenges. Early diagnosis means early treatment which is better when dealing with autism.
Diagnosing autism may take a team of professionals from different specialties. This team may include your child’s pediatrician, a language and speech pathologist, a psychologist, and an occupational therapist. The team may recommend additional genetic testing and screening for other medical issues. Performing this type of comprehensive medical testing helps you understand your child’s strengths and their needs.
There are some people who are diagnosed with autism later in life. This usually occurs because the individual is displaying social, learning or emotional difficulties. Older individuals are diagnosed through a combination of interviews and observation by a trained specialist. When an older individual is diagnosed with autism, they are often relieved to find there is a reason they have difficulty relating socially.
An autism diagnosis opens the way for help and treatment. There is no need to be afraid of the diagnosis, your child is still your wonderful child. A diagnosis provides answers and solutions to help your child.
How Autism Affects Learning And Development
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are different. They face several challenges communicating and interacting with others, and these challenges can affect their learning and development. The term ‘spectrum disorder’ is coined from the fact that autism can manifest itself in many variations.
How ASD affects Learning and Development
Autistic children develop at a different rate compared to other children, and they do not necessarily develop their skills in the same way typical children commonly do. For instance, a child with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) may start using a few words at around the age of 12 months. Perhaps they might not have developed the explosion of language similarly aged children have; and might be learning just a few new words a month. It could take the child a few years (until three years of age) to start combining words into short phrases.
In another case, a child with ASD might be able to easily identify and label their own parts of the body, but not able to identify or label those parts on a picture. Another is able to identify all colors, but might be unable to sort things according to color.
How Autism Affects Attention and Interaction
Children with ASD typically don’t tune into other people as other developing children do. In this case, a child with ASD might not respond when their name is called out, smile at caregivers, make eye contact, or wave goodbye without having to be told to do so. In addition, the child might be unable to use pointing or eye contact to communicate or get someone’s attention.
Using gestures and eye contact to enhance communication and share experiences with others is called shared or joint attention. This skill is necessary for children to develop language and communication skills. For instance, when the parent is pointing at a picture of a cat, the child’s looking somewhere else. It’ll become very difficult for the child to link between the word ‘cat’ and the picture of a cat.
Difficulties with joint attention can make it difficult for children with ASD to learn skills such as interpreting facial expressions, taking turns, or sticking to the topic in a conversation.
How ASD affects Understanding
Children with ASD find it difficult to see things from the perspective of others. They may not understand that other people have different beliefs and desire from them. It might also be harder for them to predict and understand other people’s behavior, or understanding how their behavior affects others.
For good social skills, it’s very important to see things from other people’s perspective, and without it, children with ASD might face difficulties getting along with other people. This means that these children will not understand exactly why another person is upset. In most cases, children develop these skills when they are around 3 to 5 years of age, but it can take much longer for those with ASD.
Early intervention can be very beneficial to a child with ASD, and in general the earlier the better. As a parent, you can help your child learn to do things by figuring out the best kinds of interventions for them. Keep in mind that interventions based on scientific research are more likely to be the most helpful.
Early Treatment Is The Key For Helping Autistic Children To Thrive
Experts agree that when autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is diagnosed, and treatment begins while a child is still young, they’ll have the best opportunity to develop to their fullest potential. The primary goal of any form of treatment is to improve the child’s overall ability to function. Because symptoms and behaviors differ from person to person, autism is treated in a combination of ways that are tailored to meet their individual needs. Here are some of the most effective treatments that could help your autistic child to thrive.
Among the most effective treatments that are available today are pharmacological therapy, applied behavioral analysis (ABA), speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. These treatments are designed to maximize the child’s functional independence and improve overall quality of life by minimizing the associated deficits of ASD.
Pharmacological therapy consists of the use of medications to help ameliorate many undesirable behavioral problems associated with ASD. These behavioral problems include aggression, irritability, and any behavior that could lead to self-injury. It’s been found that other modes of treatment, such as ABA, are more effective when the child’s interfering or disruptive behavior has been medically reduced. Two of the most commonly prescribed medications are Risperidone and Aripriprazole.
ABA is used to systematically alter behavior through the use of learning principles derived from behavioral psychology. It promotes positive behaviors from the child, while at the same time discouraging negative, or unhealthy, behaviors. It is used to reinforce learned skills and to teach additional skills to the child, and to help the child learn to apply those skills in appropriate situations. There are several different variations of ABA, including Pivotal Response Training, Discrete Trial Teaching, Lovaas Model, and Early Start Denver Model.
People with ASD often have difficulty with social interaction and communication. Because of this, speech therapy is an important tool for helping an autistic child to develop improved communication skills. The therapy is provided by a licensed pathologist who specializes in speech-language development. It’s been found that speech therapy is most effective when the pathologist also works with the child’s family, teachers, support personnel, and peers.
Occupational Therapy is a process for treating the sensory integration issues that is often associated with ASD. Autistic patients are able to learn life skills such as getting dressed, eating with utensils, writing, and using scissors. It works to improve the patients overall quality of life by enabling them to interact fully during daily activities. The therapy is geared toward meeting the individual’s needs for meeting specific goals.
Autistic children have insufficient motor skills and difficulty handling sensory integration. Physical therapy helps the patient to become more aware of his body in space so that improvement in both of these areas can be realized. It is similar to occupational therapy in that it is useful for enabling the child to participate in everyday activities, which it does by improving skills like walking, balance, coordination, and sitting.
Using a combination of all these therapies improves your child’s chances of reaching his full potential. Each addresses a fundamental developmental need that will enable your child to function better. While it is better to begin these therapies earlier in life, it is never too late to give your child a better future.