What You Must Know About Autism

“Every child is a different kind of a flower and all of these flowers together make this world a beautiful garden”

Every child is special and has his own pace and style of learning. I have taught a class of students who are wholly and partially different from one another. I had a student in my grade one classroom in the academic year 2014-15 who was diagnosed with Autism. Inspite of being an educationist, I was not completely aware of the development disorder and only had a vague idea about it. Spending an entire year with my baby (he was my baby, I felt pain parting away from him when I had to leave the school) and his parents made me realise the need for awareness about Autism. It’s only awareness that is going to raise hope and change lives.

I recently attended a webinar organised by Himalaya BabyCare, conducted by Mrs. Anupama Maruvada, Child Behaviour Specialist. Autism is a complex and a fascinating topic. Here I share with you what I learnt from the webinar.

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder can be confused with other developmental disorders like:

Attention Deficit Disorder/ Hyperactivity Disorder

The core issue with children who are diagnosed with ADD is difficulty related to inattention and/or hyperactivity. These children are likely to be impulsive and may appear to be a couple of years behind in their social development.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Children with ODD showcase a pattern of behaviour that is negative, defiant or hostile. They are usually labelled as stubborn or rebellious.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Children showcase an obsession or fixation towards a particular object or activity.

Anxiety Disorder

Autism can also be confused with Anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders are a group of mental disorders characterised by feelings of anxiety and fear. Children with this disorder have an impeccable power to understand. They are often good at art. The core issue with children is difficulty in maintaining hand eye coordination, clumsiness, underdeveloped senses and difficulty in walking.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterised by great difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts. The earlier this Disorder is detected the better it is for the child and the family. Autism cannot be cured but treated. Doctors compare the treatment of autism to that of diabetes. No treatment is lifelong.

Early signs of Autism

– difficulty in maintaining eye contact.

– absence of social smile. By 12 months of age a child should be able to recognise his dear ones and smile at them.

– motor weakness

– lack of interest

– inability to grab objects

– disinterest in exploration

– language delay

– difficulty in dropping an object and pick another one

– parental gut

With a few changes in the behaviour pattern, with parental guidance and help from the experts, children with ASD can attend regular schools and lead a “normal” life.

Three strategies that parents with an autistic child must follow:

1) Connect : Parents and teachers must remember these children are special but as normal as anyone else. Building an emotional connect with love cures most of their problem. It is very significant for parents to know their child’s dreams, encourage them, get them excited about their aspirations, and help them achieve. Rigid rules and instructions will only make a child stubborn and rebellious and he may feel insecure and under confident.

2) Communicate : Dr. Anupama emphasised on the need to communicate with the child. Communication does not necessarily have to be verbal in nature. Positive gestures, body language, and facial expressions are equally effective means of communication.

3) Co-operation : A child is often expected to co operate with the parents. What is often neglected is how much the parents co operate with the child. No matter what the diagnosis reveal, parents must cooperate with the child’s behaviour and needs.

How to handle temper tantrums

Handling the temper tantrums of an autistic child can be challenging for a parent. Dr. Anupama shared a few ways of dealing with it :

– pay attention to positive attention seeking only

– grant a transition period

– keep off limit objects ( dangerous and harmful objects) out of sight

– redirect the child’s attention towards another activity or object

– relocate the child to an outdoor area

– keep the child engaged to avoid boredom

– be as humorous as you can

Pitfalls parents MUST avoid

Caressing, nurturing and raising a child diagnosed with ASD can be challenging but parental love, expert guidance and faith the condition can be treated.. However, parents tend to make these mistakes that do more harm than good to their child. These parenting pitfalls must be avoided under any circumstances:

– threatening

– commanding

– interrupting

– insulting

– teasing

– yelling

– generalising (making remarks like – you always behave this way, you never do your work on time)

– sulking

– ignoring

– being silent

– bringing up old instances

Dr Anupama reassures that “symptoms of autism can be reversed with a 99% success rate”.

Children run around and climb trees, fall down and hurt themselves. But the first person that comes to their mind is their mother. The same way, good health of a child is first on the priority list of a mother

Mothers would always want to know what is happening with their child and see them happy all the time. Through these few therapies and consulting the right doctor at the right time, a mother can ‘Undo the condition.”

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