Tips on Coping with Accepting that Your Child has Autism
Although it is known to be a rare phenomenon, autism is not completely a rare phenomenon to occur in children. This complex disorder poses serious disruptions in a child’s physical and emotional health, their career aspirations and even on all fronts of their relationships. It is extremely overwhelming and heartbreaking for any parent to find out that their child is actually suffering from this developmental disorder.
Of course, this would mean that their child would face impaired social interactions, restricted and repetitive behaviour and even impaired verbal and non-verbal behaviour. However, as a parent what you can do is not get overwhelmed and accept the challenges that their child will have to face. In fact, there are many parents who even turn to HEAL Foundation or Autism Speaks, extremely reliable organizations that are founded on creating awareness about Autism.
All of the research and even services that parents, family members or even friends can get access can definitely help them understand autism in a better manner. In fact, many doctors, teachers and even parents have also used the information that is found at these organizations!
There is another standing viewpoint of Autism that aims at not only understanding the disorder but also accepting he diagnosis as being part of the child. This autism acceptance, also known as autism positivity aims at reminding people that autism should not just be treated as an illness but is a part of an individual’s personality.
One mother of an autistic child has even compiled an entire list of tips to help create a healthier parent/child relationship for all parents to make use of in case they are raising such a child.
These tips include:
- Make sure you listen to your child with complete intention. No matter what, you should try to understand what they mean when they say something (or are trying to). While doing so, you should never focus on receiving a reply!
- Make sure you interact with other ‘adults’ who suffer from autism.
- It is very important to have a constant interaction with the child’s teacher and keep a check of his behaviour at school. You could also offer helpful information that has helped you in parenting such as The Autism Discussion Page by Bill Nasson. His style of writing, which is extremely compassionate, is excellent as it also provides excellent ideas, tips and resources for caregivers and parents.
- It is important to implement a reward system for the child to help him/her understand acceptable behaviour. A good example is the Token Management Theory, which can help to keep the child calm as well as the parent.
- Do your own research about successful people who also suffer from autism. It is possible to have a successful career despite autism, so make sure you do your research and use these inspiring stories when interacting with your child.
- Make sure your child familiarizes themselves with successful individuals such as Joe Hudy who is a child from Dr. Mad Science and is known for enjoying science experiments. It is important here, to make your child understand that he/she is not alone!
- Observe your child and find out what he/she likes. Use this as a method to connect more with them. It could be a hobby or an interest and this can provide a great way for you to connect with them! You can research about Ron Suskind who had helped his son make use of his love for Disney to make connections with the rest of the world!
- Encourage your child to try out new things in life and go beyond their comfort zone. It may be uncomfortable for them but this is exactly where a child will grow!
- You may want to involve your child in a cognitive therapy session as well. There is the option of work that has been done by Dr. Abraham A Low. It has been illustrated in his book, Mental Health through Will Training. In fact, this book teaches an entire system that can be used by many families.
- As a parent it is very important to understand the importance of playtime for your child. He/she may not be able to learn by just observing or watching how other children behave. They need their pace, their own time. So make sure, you give them the freedom to have time for their own style of social expression and interaction.
- It is important to inculcate a sense of confidence in your child. You can make use of narrative psychology, which is that part of psychology which is concerned with how humans deal with experience by either constructing their own stories or listening to others
A profound quote is “This is your Life and how we tell it.”
Narrative psychology changes how we look at situations.
For example, rather than saying, “Children with Autism don’t like gym class,” focus on activities they do like. This will help your child to participate in and enjoy physical activities. It is important to fight against all sorts of labels or barriers associated with Autism.
Restrictive Physical Interventions
An adverse impression of ill-treatment & punishment is created by physical involvement, restriction, assisting & positive handling. This is isn’t surprising as it is a dated practise in some establishments.
After spending fair time working with children with ASD, there is very less an occasion where a child is to be assisted, alerted, advised or restricted to ensure that the child or the even the staff are safe. Physical contact has a considerable role in this. ‘Children with ASD have a dislike to being touched’ – is what i have been told many times while aiding this special group of children for over the past 20 years. I have felt that a lot of the children like physical contact & its usually a positive touch, that gives them confidence, that they like – ie any ensuring physical gesture like handshakes, hi fives or an arm around the shoulder. I have also helped many children who usually don’t like being touched. But after reaching their zone of comfort through telling stories & giving them verbal positive boosts, i have been hugged& cuddled by them. Biologically, these children have a very low sensitivity to touch & they need a firm touch of assurance to keep them in comfort. It depends on how the children have been touched before. If they have been given more of praise & encouragement through touch then they would have a liking towards physical contact. If they have been restricted or unnecessarily helped, they would have a dislike to being touched.
The question is – Should we hold them or not?
The situation is a little uneasy & stressful when the staff is to take a call on whether to hold a child. In the UK any physical involvement should have an understanding of risk and after an analysis of action after the situation since the staff working with these children have a –‘Duty of Care’. They have to consider the following:
- Is the behaviour of staff sensible?
- Is the appropriate force applied?
- Has the staff chosen the right action?
- Is the action taken for the best of the child?
These should be a must do & should be thought through so that the decisions to act are safe & is the best for the child or young person. Any action made by the teacher or care taker should be on only one principle which is the ‘Child’s Welfare’. I would advice parents or the concerned staff to have a walk-through on the Policy on care & control by the School or Care Facility. Enquire if the staff has been trained on Physical Intervention & also if risk analysis is being carried out. I would also suggest to find out how the staff record & report an incident of physical contact, particularly a restraint or hold. Any such incident should be reported to the parents & this has to be task in risk analysis.
According to me, it all depends on how confident the staff is. Physical intervention does keep children & adults equally safe. Physical intervention is worst case action and for all other scenarios should be filtered out through delegating tasks & behaviour management by staff who has undergone training to apply risk assessments. On the whole physical intervention should not be feared or barrier the abilities of the child while we support the children with ASD.