April has widely been lauded as “Autism Awareness Month” in many parts of the world to empower and support autistic families and their special kids. Pregnancy to Parenthood got a golden opportunity to talk to Vismila Rodrigues, special needs educator who gave us a very different point of view towards Autism. She strongly suggested that Autism awareness and societal acceptance go hand in hand. Hope this article will warm your hearts and give you more knowledge about Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
“Autism, is part of my child, it’s not everything he is. My child is so much more than a diagnosis.”
– S.L Coehlo
As parents, you all must have faced this situation where your child is judged or not accepted. Parenting isn’t ever easy and raising a child with special needs is even more challenging. No parent is ever prepared to hear that a child is diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior, mostly influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
When you’re looking after a child with Autism, it’s important to take care of yourself. As you need to be physically as well as emotionally strong. It is a very challenging situation for all, particularly mothers. Most mothers tend to blame themselves for their child’s diagnosis.
Dear mothers, it’s not your fault, you didn’t cause it. The culprit is most probably genetics or environmental factors. As a mother, you need to feel proud, as you are blessed with a special child. You will experience a variety of emotions in your lifetime, moments that will touch your soul, enlighten your mind, keep yourself ready for all possible challenges, and in short make you a pro in dealing with various circumstances that life throws at you.
I don’t say life is going to be all goody and bliss. There will be times when parenting your child will be more intense. You will need to keep your child from running away, manage meltdowns, avoid things or sounds that overload his/ her senses, and appointments with therapists or doctors. And most of all you will be sleep-deprived. Many children with autism don’t sleep well neither their parents do.
You will also have to deal with challenging behaviors, including hitting, throwing things, head-banging, and other forms of self-injury, repetitive behaviors, and tantrums. You’ll need to be more patient. At that time, you’ll need to find the right environment and the right support. Try to get as much help from friends and family as possible.
People who are unaware or ignorant about Autism may blame your child’s meltdown or autistic behaviors on poor parenting. Sometimes invitations to birthday parties and gatherings would stop coming, because of the child’s behaviors.
But all that doesn’t matter because, in the end, all you have got is that one happy child that brightens up your day like no one else. Your child looks up to you for everything and you need to be your best to be his/ her hero. ACCEPTANCE is the keyword. You need to accept your child the way he/ she is and work towards building a brighter future for him/ her.
There is no manual that you can follow blindly as no child is the same as the other, but you can incorporate some of these points to bring out the best in your child and help him/her overcome the challenges that come your way.
Tips for Parenting A Child With Autism Spectrum Disorder
Early intervention – It is the most effective way to speed up your child’s development.
Autism Awareness – Educate yourself, friends, and family about autism, the therapies, and the necessary help you require for your child’s success.
Know your child well – Observe him/ her minutely. Figure out things that trigger his behavior, things that calm him/her down, things that he /she enjoys doing, etc. Know his/her strength and weakness. Many times, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are hypersensitive to light, sound, touch, taste, and smell, while some are “under-sensitive” to sensory stimuli.
Use reinforcements – Praise and appreciate all the small successes or appropriate behaviors and reward them by giving stickers or allowing them to do things, they like doing the most.
Have a schedule and be consistent – When you plan a routine or a schedule, it helps them to perform better and you need to be consistent in the sense that you need to follow up with what is done by the therapist or in the school so that the child can apply what he/she has learned in various settings. Also, be consistent with the way you deal with challenging behaviors.
Have fun – Both your child and you need to have fun together. Plan for activities or games where you both can bond and have a lot of fun time. It helps to build your relationship with your child. Make them choose the activity they want to do and join them.
For nonverbal children – Check for cues that your child uses to communicate feelings and express different things like a particular sound, gesture, or facial expression. Acting out is often done when you’re not picking up on their nonverbal cues. It’s their way of communicating their frustration, needs, and getting your attention.
Be positive – No matter whether you see or don’t see the results. Motivate your child at every point in time, as your child senses everything. And be specific about what you liked about them or their behavior.
Be honest – You need to be honest about your child. Be it with therapists or educators, you should honestly share your observations with them so that they can tailor the program for your child accordingly.
Go everywhere – Don’t let social stigma or people hamper your child’s growth. More exposure more opportunities to learn!
Don’t give up – No matter what comes your way, never give up on your child or on yourself. Trust yourself. You know your child better than anyone else. People will tell you that you are doing it wrong, that you are messing them up. Just don’t bother. Only listen to advice from the people you trust. Your child needs someone who will never give up on them.
Love yourself – Don’t let taking care of your child stress you up. Take a break. Move out, take some fresh air and then start back with lots of energy.To end this on a lighter note, I found this very interesting quote by Brenda Rothman from her blog Mama be good which you will definitely relate to.
“You were given an instruction manual for a Ford and your child is a Ferrari. So, Congratulations! Your child is NOT fundamentally different from other children. You just need the right instruction manual.”
So, my dear parents enjoy the ride on your Ferrari and make the most exciting memories. Celebrate each milestone and most importantly celebrate yourself for you are not an ordinary parent but an extra-ordinary one!
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a special condition and we all not only need to spread more and more autism awareness but also acceptance. Kindly share this article if you like it to spread more autism awareness!
– Vismila Rodrigues, Special Educator
A Special Educator by profession, Vismila is currently teaching in a prominent special school in Goa. Vismila loves her job and is passionate about catering to children with special needs.