If your child was recently diagnosed with Autism, you're probably searching for a lot of answers, starting with what is autism, and what are the different interventions available.
The numbers are overwhelming–and keep growing. On a broader scale, 1 percent of all the children in the world will be affected by this developmental disorder. Autism is treatable, but not curable. New treatment developments are constantly underway. If your child was recently diagnosed, here are the questions you’re probably asking right now.
Q) What Does The Autism Spectrum Mean?
A) Autism, or ASD, for autism spectrum disorder, can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges, and is defined by a specific set of behaviors that manifests as a “spectrum condition” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees–from gifted to severely impaired. The learning, problem-solving, and cognitive abilities of those with autism have a wide range, spread across a spectrum of severity. Some with ASD will need a lot of help in their daily lives, while others will need less.
ASD as a diagnostic term, now includes a number of conditions that used to be separately diagnosed: Asperger syndrome, autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, or (PDD-NOS). All these conditions have now been subsumed under the umbrella term autism spectrum disorder.
Q) What Causes Autism?
A) Researchers don’t know the exact cause of autism. And because the disorder is complex, and no two people experience autism the same way, there are likely many contributing factors.
Q) Did I do anything to cause it?
A) No. Although many parents feel guilty and worry about this, it is important to realize that you did nothing to cause autism.
Q) Is There A Cure For Autism?
A) Autism is treatable, but not curable. Individuals with autism do not “outgrow” autism, but studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes. The key to the puzzle is understanding that there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment. Just as there is no one symptom or behavior that identifies people with autism, there is no single treatment that will be effective for everyone on the spectrum.
Treatment for autism is usually a multi-pronged approach, focused on a combination of different therapies, tailored to the individual’s needs and symptoms
Q) Why do autistic kids/adults not like to wear clothes? Why can they get so upset at times?
A) It’s all sensory. Think how you feel when you have that scratchy tag on your neck and imagine that all over your body! They don’t like certain textures and tags. So you can find a comfortable one for them by trying everything out and then continue wearing them the same through the years.
Q) What helps an autistic child sleep well?
A) Try to relax them before bedtime. No screen time 2 hours before bed and 1 hour after they wake up. This makes a huge difference. You can also use essential oil blend in the diffuser for sleep. If it's not getting any better, visit your pediatrician, they might help you with a dose of melatonin.
Q) Precautions and preparations to be made before boarding a flight with your child with autism?
A) Read Social stories every night days prior to leaving, bring snacks/food, headset (preferably noise-canceling ones), favorite teddy, calming blanket, tablet with his favorite movie, colored pens, and drawing book, etc. Also, you can inform the airport staff prior to your flight that your child with autism is going to be on the flight. They do some special arrangements like hassle-free and super quick check-in, early boarding, and give special attention every time.
Q) Is it normal for children with autism to make advances with their behaviors and do fine for a bit of time and then have infantile regression like meltdowns again?
A) This seems to happen a lot when you’re trying to extinguish behaviours. They assimilate the new behavior, and then it’s like they remember that they used to get something out of the old behavior, so they got to try it again, it’s just really important not to cave so that you can get back to the desired behavior more quickly.
Q) I've tried everything but my child just does not wear a mask?
A) Here are a few tips, you can use. Familiar scents, one like home, essential oils to make them feel comfortable. Provide a good amount of reinforcement for every attempt made, provide them with some break cards, so they can ask for a break whenever needed and are not just throwing it off.
If the mask doesn't work at all, try a face shield, eyeglasses attached face shield. These all might work.
Q) When to expect my child with autism to talk completely? What can be done to teach him more?
A) Every child is different and so the developmental process in every child is also going to be different. Some might speak early, some might be late talkers. Keep on motivating and encouraging them about all the vocal behaviour they do. Take them to a speech therapist as soon as possible. Communication is the main key to understanding and conveying your teachings and thoughts to your child. Your speech therapist will work on overall communication goals. Start speech therapy in the earliest stage of intervention so that you don't face any communication gap with your child. Also, some children with autism might have some associated conditions which can demean their speech and language such as Apraxia of speech, attention issues, hearing difficulties, etc. So it's also advisable to start first with speech therapy if your child is diagnosed with ASD
Q) What is the role of speech and language therapists in the development of your child with autism spectrum disorder?
A)Speech therapy plays an important role in the holistic development of a child with an autism spectrum disorder. It improves overall communication, enhances social skills, enables to cope better with society, and functions in day-to-day life. It should be started as early as a diagnosis is made. Speech therapist does all of this :
Speech articulation: by oro-motor exercises of lip and facial muscles, the way a child moves mouth while saying certain words and sounds.
Communication: This includes teaching gestural communication, or training with PECS (picture exchange cards), electronic talking devices, and other non-verbal communication tools.
Comprehension: The speech therapist engages the child in functional language activities that involve cognition and social interaction.
Speech pragmatics: Use of speech to build social relationships.
Conceptual skills: Big and small concept, left & right concept, color concept, body parts concepts, yes and no concept
Q) What is PECS?
A) Picture exchange communication system, it is the best-known form of AAC i.e., Augmentative and alternative COMMUNICATION. PECS was developed for use with nonverbal children or adults, including those with autism. This is done through the exchange of pictures, a link between the picture and what it stands for is established. Once this is done, the individual is prompted to pass the picture of the desired object to a 'communication partner', who immediately supplies the desired object. The vocabulary of the pictured items is then gradually increased according to the individual’s major wants and needs.
Q) Role of a speech therapist in developing social skills?
A) Many children and adults on the autism spectrum need help in learning how to act in different types of social situations. They often have the desire to interact with others, but may not know how to engage friends or may be overwhelmed by the idea of new experiences.
Building up social skills with practice can help enhance participation in the community and support outcomes like happiness and friendships. Speech-language pathologists assist children with autism develop important social skills to communicate wants and needs, socialize with others, and participate in activities. Incorporating your child’s speech goals at home can reinforce and generalize social skills in everyday activities and interactions
Q) What should a parent focus on at home for a child with ASD?
A) As a parent, you’ve probably spent a lot of time thinking about your child’s future.
Apart from the medical care and therapies that you may line up to help your son or daughter, there are simple, everyday things that make a difference.
Focus on the positive. Just like anyone else, children with autism spectrum disorder often respond well to positive reinforcement. That means when you praise them for the behaviors they’re doing well, it will make them (and you) feel good.
Stay consistent and on schedule. People on the spectrum like routines. Make sure they get consistent guidance and interaction, so they can practice what they learn from therapy.
Give it time. You’ll likely try a lot of different techniques, treatments, and approaches as you figure out what’s best for your child. Stay positive and try not to get discouraged if they don’t respond well to a particular method.
Get support. Whether online or face-to-face, support from other families, professionals, and friends can be a big help. Create a village of friends and family who understand your child's diagnosis
As a parent, you must also know the best form of learning for your child. Most importantly, always research well
It is very crucial and significant for parents and professionals to work in collaboration for the benefit of the child. This ensures that the child gets faster and better results.
Q) How important is the role of Occupational therapists in the intervention of children with autism?
A) Occupational therapy can help improve their motor, cognitive, sensory processing, communication, and play skills. The goal is to enhance development, minimize the potential for developmental delay, and help families to meet their special needs. There is no single ideal treatment program. But early, structured, individualized care has been shown to work best. Occupational therapy may combine a variety of strategies. These can help your child respond better to their environment. The therapist helps introduce, maintain, and improve skills so that people with autism can be as independent as possible. Daily living skills, such as toilet training, dressing, brushing teeth, and other grooming skills.
Fine motor skills are required for holding objects while handwriting or cutting with scissors
Gross motor skills are used for walking, climbing stairs, or riding a bike.
Sitting, posture, or perceptual skills, such as telling the differences between colors, shapes, and sizes.
Awareness of their body and its relation to others.
Visual skills for reading and writing.
Play, coping, self-help, problem-solving, communication, and social skills.
Q) What is ABA and how is it useful for children with ASD?
A) Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a type of therapy that focuses on improving specific behaviors, such as social skills, communication, reading, and academics as well as adaptive learning skills, such as fine motor dexterity, hygiene, grooming, domestic capabilities, punctuality, and job. It has also been shown that consistent ABA can significantly improve behaviors and skills and decrease the need for special services. Many experts consider ABA to be the gold-standard treatment for children with an autism spectrum disorder.