Six things parents should know about autism and how it affects children
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that is often diagnosed early in life.
Most children with ASD develop symptoms between the age of one and two years. Autism Spectrum Disorder presents challenges in communication and how a child relates to other people, and can affect their personal skills and ability to self-regulate.
As a ‘spectrum’ disorder, autism can have varying presentations with different symptoms that can range from mild to severe.
If you notice your child displaying possible symptoms of ASD, speak to your doctor. They will take a medical history and examine your child to confirm the diagnosis of autism and rule out other medical conditions that may cause a similar presentation.
Getting a diagnosis early is important as you can interventions that can help to teach your child how to cope with their condition. In this article you’ll find information about what you can expect if your child has ASD.
1) Autism Spectrum Disorder has a genetic component
Researchers have identified some of the genes that cause ASD. These genes affect the normal development of the brain and how different brain cells communicate with each other.
The severity of the symptoms that your child may experience is determined by the gene mutations that they have. The incidence of autism spectrum disorders is higher in children with genetic disorders like Rett Syndrome.
Some of the genetic mutations that contribute to ASD can be inherited, while others can simply occur spontaneously. To support the genetic causation of ASD, it has been reported that having a first-degree family member who has autism increases the chances of having an autistic child.
Some the parents of autistic children can also have some of the minor symptoms of ASD, like social and communication disorders.
2) ASD children can have repetitive behaviors
When your child has autism, they may make repetitive movements like shaking, flapping their hands, and spinning, which involve all the five senses.
You may be wondering what is stimming, as it’s common term that people use when talking about autism. Stimming is one of the indicators of autism that is caused by overstimulation, where the child’s brain is receiving too many sensory inputs.
Stimming can also occur when there is a significant reduction in the amount of stimulation that the child gets, and when they have distress or anxiety. Different stimming types include:
As you may have noticed, these are based on the five senses.
3) There is no cure for ASD
There is no ‘cure’ for autism; the condition is lifelong. However, the good news is that there are some interventions that your child can receive to improve how they cope with ASD.
The earlier your child gets these interventions, the better the outcome. These treatment modalities aim to reduce the severity of the symptoms that your child is experiencing, as well as improving their development and learning skills.
4) The treatment modalities for ASD
Some of the interventions that can help your child include behavioral therapy and educational therapy. These are designed to help your child learn new skills to improve their communication and interactions with other people.
Family therapy will also teach you and other family members how to relate with your autistic child, and help them to cope better with their condition. Your child may also benefit from physical therapy to improve their movement, as well as medications to treat any other medical problems.
Children with autism need structure and safety. So it’s recommended that you:
- Be consistent.
- Stick to a schedule.
- Reward good behavior.
- Create a home safety zone.
It can be challenging connecting with a child with autism. But there are many ways to communicate that don’t require verbal conversations. Here are some recommendations for communicating with your child:
- Look for nonverbal cues.
- Try to work out the motivation behind their tantrums.
- Make time for fun.
- Pay attention to their sensory sensitivities.
5) It’s not your fault that your child has ASD
It’s important to remember that Autism Spectrum Disorder is a medical condition that has nothing to do with bad parenting. So please don’t berate yourself for not being a ‘better parent’.
The factors that contribute to ASD include (as already mentioned) gene mutations, environmental factors like air pollution, viral infections like herpes and rubella, premature birth, and other brain abnormalities.
The important point os that you never blame yourself because your child has autism, because it is not your fault. Carrying guilt about your child’s ASD won’t help you or them.
6) The prognosis of ASD
As mentioned already, Autism Spectrum Disorder is a lifelong condition. There is no cure, nor is there any one-size-fits-all treatment. The goal of treatment is to maximize your child’s ability to function by reducing their ASD symptoms and supporting development and learning.
The good news is that early intervention during their preschool years can help your child learn critical social, communication, functional and behavioral skills.
ASD is a spectrum disorder, with a range of severity of symptoms, and the prognosis of children with autism is connected with their IQ. While low-functioning people with ASD may never live independently and might need home or residential care for the rest of their lives, high-functioning people can live independently, hold jobs successfully, and even marry and have children.
Children with ASD usually continue to learn and compensate for problems throughout their life, and many will continue to require some level of support. Planning for your child’s future, such as employment, college, living situation, independence and the services they need for support can help make this process smoother.