Mother’s guide to Autism

Imagine someone is blowing a trumpet, some music playing in the background, lots of people moving in front of you and someone is teaching you and has sealed your lips so that you cannot express your feelings and still expects you to listen. Can you? How would you feel? Frustrated? Feeling like just screaming and throwing things? Yes, welcome to the world of autistic children. They go through something like this every day. Their brain cannot filter out unimportant things like far off sounds. When we are in a class or listening to someone, our brain automatically filters out unimportant sounds or less important information coming in. But their brain cannot. We can express and communicate, but their weakness lies in expression and communication.

So, what can be done? A Lot. They are not unintelligent people. If you see heads in the coin and someone else sees tails that doesn’t mean the other person is wrong and you are right. It is seeing things and understanding the world differently. That’s what autistic children do. See things differently and that doesn’t make them dumb. They may not understand everything and that’s when you should help and support them in understanding the world around them.

How to support Autistic kids?
1. Seek professional support
2. Mother the best therapist
3. Encourage and Support
4. Speak only positive

1. Seek Professional support
We as parents cannot do everything and it would seem overwhelming for us. Hence we need to seek professional support in the form of therapies (Occupational therapy, remedial teaching and speech if required).These can make tremendous difference in the person if it’s done continuously and consistently for a period of years. Yes, years not days or months. It would take atleast 2 years to see visible difference and improvement and that too if it’s done when the child is still young, else it would take longer.

2. Mother the best therapist
A therapist can work a maximum of 4hrs a week but that’s not sufficient. A mother is the best therapist because she stays with the child 24×7. So in my experience all mothers or parents of autistic children need to do the course (a good one) in special education. No parental course. That won’t help.

A course in special education will help us learn
– What exactly is the child’s problem,
– Where they stand and most importantly,
– How to work with strategies to help them.

3. Encourage and support them.
Encourage and support them, meaning teach them and help them. Don’t do everything for them. This will build self-confidence. Teach them to be independent. Demonstrate and show them step by step slowly on how to do things. E.g. Buttoning shirt. Go step by step.

o Give them a shirt.
o Demonstrate to them five to six times on how to do it. Let the child make   attempts. Praise them at every attempt. Don’t be in a hurry for them to     learn or give up. Teach the same activity everyday.
o Then you wear and let them button it for you.
o Next step would be to do it on themselves in front of mirror.

Teach them life skills (eating, bathing, dressing, toilet training. etc.)
E.g. For toilet training use step wise picture or visual cue chart and stick it on the bathroom door. Let them see it whenever they use the
washroom. Kids with autism learn faster with visual cues.

Use visuals cues or pictures wherever possible. Make a visual time table for
daily routine. That reduces a lot of anxiety.
For example, if they need to be in school at 9.00 make a time table upto
9.00am- What all things they need to do in a sequence.
o 6.30 am-Wake up (With pictures for all)
o 6.40am-Brush teeth
o 7.00am-Take bath, wear dress
o 7.30-Eat breakfast etc.

Treat them like any other individual. Teach them differently.  Don’t behave differently. If you behave and treat a 17-year-old autistic boy like a 3-year old he would think “Either way they treat me like a 3 year old why even try to be 17 year old and behave like one”. Just because they cannot express doesn’t mean they cannot understand.

4. Speak only positive
Tell them what to do rather than what not to do. For example, instead of telling them “Don’t write on walls” it would be rather better to say “write in a book.” Praise them even if they attempt to do something and help them further to do better. Celebrate them and be happy. They cannot express but can make out expressions far better than all of us. Anxiety in us increases their anxiety a lot more.

 5. Identify the strengths
Identify what they like doing or good at. Try to teach them using their strengths. If they are good at maths, music, painting or any other skill develop that talent in them. It’s never too late or the child too old .Help them, encourage them and support them continuously.

Finally, believe in the divine, divine prayers, chanting prayers everyday by the children themselves has a lot more effect then you doing it.

-SushmaSrivatsan

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