AUTISM & YOUR CHILD'S
Even without an Autism Spectrum Disorder, young
people often struggle with the normal challenges of growing up,
acquiring complex skills, and learning how to sustain meaningful
relationships. Autism Spectrum Disorders such as autism
syndrome can increase the difficulty of these normal challenges,
both for the child and for the parents. It is essential that children
have assistance and support designed to meet each individual’s particular
How do Autism Spectrum Disorders affect development?
A child learns a vast array of skills, each layer
of learning building on the one before. Autism Spectrum Disorders
disrupt this process to a greater or lesser extent. There are so
many things to learn and tasks to accomplish to reach mature adulthood.
It’s a challenging journey for any young person, and an Autism Spectrum Disorder makes it harder.
Autism Spectrum Disorders range from very mild to very severe,
with everything in between. A mild Autism Spectrum Disorder such
as Asperger's syndrome may be harder to detect, but with increasing
severity, more areas of life are usually involved and effects are
obvious in say a case of profound autism.
Often there’s nothing in a person’s appearance that indicates they
are affected by an Autism Spectrum Disorder. The signs will usually
be evident in the person’s behavior
All this means that the special needs of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder may not be recognized, and their behavior may be misunderstood
by the wider community.
Involving therapists and professional support
The first and essential step is to obtain a clear
and accurate assessment
of all the young person’s abilities and difficulties. Assessment
is the basis for planning a specific program to build on the young
person’s strengths and address their particular needs, and set short-term
and longer-term goals. This planning and goal-setting should always
be a team effort, with the the family involved – a partnership that
works to find the best ways of meeting each young person’s needs,
and the needs of the family as a whole.
The program needs to be tailored to your child's and your family's
priorities and circumstances, to build on your particular strengths
and skills. It needs to help minimize developmental delays in your
child and foster learning and independence.
Good tips for helping your child
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders need
lots of opportunities to practice skills that others learn more
easily, and different styles of teaching are usually needed, such
as a reliance on visual as well as verbal cues. There is a range
of health professionals who can work with the young person and the
parents on this journey. It’s also vital to have the involvement
and support of the child's teachers and school.
Is your child having trouble learning a task? Break down the skills
involved into small components and practice them with your child.
You might, for example, play in a smaller space, use a bigger ball,
practice somewhere where there argent lots of other distractions.
Talk to your child's teachers, and any sports coaches, so they understand
your child's special learning needs, are aware of the challenges
that can be expected over time, and can help to reinforce a structured
approach in teaching skills.
Children on the autism spectrum need lots of encouragement to
take part in physical activities, in order to maintain their physical
ability and a basic level of physical fitness. You might need to
help your child find a sport or activity that does not need to be
done in competition with others, so he/she can experience success
in it — for example, swimming or cycling.
Pitch your expectations at a level where success is likely, and
remember to praise or reward small but significant steps toward
a goal. Positive
reinforcement is crucial.
Practice how to deal with difficult situations, recognizing that
it may be hard to apply existing skills to new situations. Focus
on tapping into the young person’s strengths, and changing the surroundings
to compensate for things he or she finds difficult.
Respect the young person’s dignity, help them achieve their goals
for themselves and aim continually to build self-esteem and confidence.
Be consistent in your expectations and approach – don't chop and
change the ground rules for the young person. Children on the autism spectrum have trouble adapting to sudden changes in routine.
You may find yourself so busy trying to assist your child that you
don't seem to be relating to him or her naturally any more. Try
to give yourselves time off every now and then, and just be together
for a bit. Remember to keep the emphasis on having fun, especially
during any home-based programs.
See the Family
and Carer issues section of the website for more information.
Click here for the full
range of Asperger's and autism fact sheets on this site.
This autism fact sheet is under copyright www.autism-help.org