Hi everyone, today being World Autism Awareness Day I thought of bringing forth to all of you what is Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in a simplified way. Some of you might have met or interacted with autistic children. Many of you may be parents of an autistic child. This article on Autism is very inspiring and collated by Dr Caroline Noronha D’Souza. She works very closely with Autistic children and their parents. Dr Caroline is a Paediatric Physical Therapist and an Attachment Parenting Practitioner. She runs her own centre by the name of Building Blocks Rehabilitation. Let us see what Dr Caroline has to say.
Autism – By Dr Caroline
As a pediatric physical therapist, I start my day ready to teach, absorb and problem solve, however, fascinatingly, I end each day with a new Little guru!
My little Gurus will be the kids who are on the autism spectrum.
These are the ones who can stump the smartest of us, with their arrays of talents and strengths. They make sure their parents and I are working hard to keep up with their exceptional minds!!
Have you started to notice that your child is a little bit behind then other kids in developmental skills?
Does your child tend to shy away from interacting and playing with others?
Are there times when you struggle to get your child to respond or communicate with you?
Do you feel like something is not quite right?
These could be a few signs that your child may be struggling with developmental delays or possibly Autism Spectrum Disorder.
By understanding more about Autism you’ll be able to understand and help your child at the right time and in the right way.
What is Autism?
Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with
- social skills,
- repetitive behaviors
- affected play behaviors,
- delayed speech and communication.
Developmental difficulties are typically noted within the first 3 years of life (18-36 months) . It varies with some children showing lower levels of symptoms and some more severe symptoms. The diagnostic numbers of Autism remain higher than they have ever been. The causes can vary from genetic predisposition, environmental factors to many other medical conditions.
It is widely believed that far more boys than girls are diagnosed with Autism. Current US statistics put the rates of ASD at 1 in every 59 children being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum disorder.
Social scenarios, however, have evolved drastically over the years from stigmas around mental health. There is higher levels of acceptance and inclusion of children and individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in all walks of life.
What are the signs to look out for?
|Social Difficulties||Communication||Repetitive behaviours|
|Failure to respond to their name||Delayed babbling, speaking or hand gestures||Flapping|
|Disinterest in people||Difficulty combining words into sentences||Jumping|
|Difficulty playing with others||Difficulty maintaining conversation||Rocking|
|Don’t imitate things they see others do||Lack or loss of verbal communication skills||Repeating sounds, words or phrases|
|Prefer playing alone||Difficulty following instructions||Arranging/re-arranging objects|
|Difficulty adjusting in new environments||Pre-occupation with certain toys such as trains, cars , cartoon characters|
|Difficulty with Abstract concepts-taking things too literally||Inappropriate or odd play behaviours|
Co-existing conditions such as
- Sleep problems
- Sensory difficulties
- Mood disorders
- Anxiety with these behaviors could also be indicative of underlying spectrum disorders.
What must you do?
As a parent, Listen to your instinct!!
The Best thing you can do is to seek help soon as you suspect something’s wrong and start treatment right away. Early Intervention is the most effective way to speed up your child’s development and to reduce the negative impact of delayed development.
Individuals with Autism, may need and receive a wide range of therapeutic services. Few of them are
- Occupational Therapy
- Physical Therapy
- Speech Therapy
- Behavioral Interventions
- Sensory Integration
- Art Based Therapy
- Music therapy etc
These can be personalized to address each child’s difficulties individually.
Positive traits of an autistic child
- Children with Autism may display a wide range of difficult behaviors but using their positive character traits is the way to teach and build new skills
- Few positive traits more commonly seen are an ability to follow routines and schedules perfectly once a child learns it
- The attention to details with amazing memory which enable the child to learn roads, maps, places within a few tries
- Their ability to be persistent and to complete a task when they set their minds to it, having a lot of passion when engaging in activities they like
How can you help your child with Autism thrive?
- Start by learning about Autism as much as you can
- Wait, Watch, Listen- Figure out what triggers your child’s challenging behaviors and what elicits a positive response
- Focus on identifying your child’s strength’s and attempts to develop these areas rather than concentrating on how they are different compared to other kids
- Enjoy your child’s special abilities; celebrate successes
- Try to maintain structure and routines in your day to day life. Be consistent with your child. Kids love predictability and structure.
- Provide your child constant opportunities for interaction and communication
- Use your child’s interest to teach them new skills. for e.g.: if your child love Thomas the Tank engine, start using Thomas themed puzzles, games , colouring books etc
- Choose activities that your child can do and try moving play to the next stage. for e.g.: If your child like banging blocks, introduce some turn taking with blocks , redirect towards stacking or sorting coloured blocks
- Teach Simple actions and specific instructions to make it easy for your child to stay engaged with you.
- Talk to them so they can see and hear language in action
- Talk with your hands (non-verbal communication) to bridge the gaps so that they learn to talk and communicate better
- Create opportunities to explore and experience new places and different social scenarios with your child
- Organize areas within your home for different kinds of sensory play, imaginary play, other constructive play
- Provide ample time for structured play which is essential to help kids on the spectrum stay positively engaged.
Individuals on the spectrum have a wide range of talents and positives that we need to celebrate. The defining characteristic of Autism is an imbalanced set of skills and abilities- they may be very good at some things but may not be so good at something else.
Always Remember – A child with Autism is still a child
They still like to laugh and have fun. They may become overly fixated on one thing, however they still want to be with you, to make friends, talk and have fun.
Adults in the child’s life can help by following-
- the child’s lead,
- help the child adapt,
- develop new interests,
- teach them to share,
- interact and engage with other children in play.
When you meet an individual with ASD, say Hi- talk to them. They may take a little longer to respond so try not to give up too soon. Using social greetings is a skill set that takes learning. It gives them a chance to know that you are interested in interacting with them. It’s important to always show your child that you love them unconditionally. You can surround them with patience, understanding and respect.
Some of the greatest scientific accomplishments and artistic works seen by our society can be attributed to individuals known or suspected to have autism.
Let’s take on the challenge to uncover the hidden talents and untapped potential in this group of individuals, as well as to support those who struggle and function on their own without help.
Autism is not a disability- it’s a different ability!! These Brilliant minds are the most overwhelmed and most under-appreciated in society. So let’s all work towards inclusion. Although it looks different from one person to another, each child and adult with ASD has an important role to fulfill.
In the words of Dr. Temple Grandin- The Key is to LOOK AT WHAT THEY CAN DO, THAN WHAT THEY CAN’T DO!!
I would like to thank Dr. Caroline for sharing her views and I am sure that all of you got an insight about Autism. Like Dr Caroline said Autistic children respond very positively to therapies and can be molded well with correct type of support and guidance. I too have seen a different type of spark in them.
Being an Art Based Practitioner I have seen they respond very well to rhythms, music and movement, games, paintings in a very beautiful way. They need love and somebody who can help them bring out the best from them.
If you are an educationist, a parent, a therapist, a counselor, a teacher and above all a citizen please take a pledge today that you will not allow any sort of discrimination and support the needs of an autistic child the way you do for any other child.
If you have any views or experiences please share it in our comment section or you can drop a line on our email Id.