A guide to improving interaction with a child diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition characterized by a marked difficulty in interacting and communicating efficiently with others. There are many unanswered questions and misconceptions about ASD. It has been suggested that it is impacted by genetics, but a definite answer does not exist. Current research classifies it as a developmental spectrum disorder because the severity in which it manifests itself and the degree to which it hampers interpersonal growth can vary greatly from person to person. ASD symptoms often start to appear at an early age and they persist throughout childhood and adulthood.
The characteristics of ASD are hard to generalize. Some children with ASD have trouble communicating with others and often socially withdraw from others, as a result. For them, even making eye contact can be difficult. Other children may exhibit what appears to be completely opposite behavior. They may love talking to the people close to them or even to strangers about a topic that they are extremely fascinated about. As opposed to extreme shyness, they may have a problem with reading boundaries and can overwhelm their listeners. The underlying common denominator is an inability to relate to others in the same way that people without ASD do, and to gauge other people’s emotions or intentions. This can certainly push loved ones away.
Breaking through the barriers of ASD
ASD has no cure, but there is hope through treatment. For families with children on the spectrum, it can be heartbreaking to feel like there is no connection between them, especially on an emotional level. It is crucial to understand and mend the rift that these disorders may cause by getting informed and taking some steps to establish effective communication methods that work for all of those involved.
Many children with ASD can learn to communicate and interact in a healthy and fulfilling way. While there is no perfect set of recommendations that works in every case, family members have had success with these tips:
First and foremost, strive to show your love and interest. Be affectionate! Children with ASD may have trouble showing their feelings, but they still need to know that they are loved. Never forget that a child with autism is still a child and needs a lot of love and support just like any other. Believe in what the child can do.
The next step is to understand ASD better. Please be aware that children on the spectrum may not be able to understand your nonverbal communications or social cues. Their response or lack thereof is not malicious but may simply be an effect of not receiving signals that they can grasp. Giving them the correct input is absolutely essential. After all, some children may only be able to handle one idea at a time. A great deal of them also take language very literally and have a hard time deciphering abstract wording or concepts. You need to be careful to say exactly what you mean, and avoid jargon or slang terminology. You should strive to keep your conversations focused and simple.
Above all, remember that they may perceive things differently than you do. Many ordinary sounds, tastes, touches, smells, and sights may not catch your attention but may be disturbing or even physically painful to the child. Children with ASD also tend to have short attention spans, so trying to interact through different means, such as physical activity, is important.
Finally, take care of yourself and don’t take things personally. If you can, join parent support groups. School psychologists and counselors can also provide resources to help you.
It can be challenging to interact with a child or grandchild with ASD. But it is one of the most important things you can do to help that child learn. Research shows that early, frequent, and loving involvement of family members is one of the best ways to help children with ASD.
For more information regarding sensory therapy, cognitive skills, behavior therapy, developmental disorders, and early intervention, please contact Stepping Stones Center. We emphasize on acquiring new and appropriate behaviors, while also working on helping the child achieve developmentally age-appropriate milestones through evidence-based practices.
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