April is national Autism Awareness Month and April 2nd is recognized internationally as World Autism Awareness Day.
How is autism diagnosed?
In the United States, the most popular way of diagnosing mental disorders is through the diagnostic system created by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). They frequently update their system and are currently on their 5th edition (DSM-5).
According to the DSM-5, Autism is now called autism spectrum disorder. Where someone lies on the spectrum is dependent on the severity of the symptoms.
According to WebMD, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is:
“A complex neurobehavioral condition that includes impairments in social interaction and developmental language and communication skills combined with rigid, repetitive behaviors… ASD ranges in severity from a handicap that somewhat limits an otherwise normal life to a devastating disability that may require institutional care.”
What are the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder?
Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder typically appear within the first three years of a child’s life. Symptoms vary, but common symptoms are:
- Speech delay in children
- Flat speech
- Learning disabilities
- Poor eye contact
- Inappropriate social interaction
- Repetitive movements
- Sensitivity to sound
- Inability to understand or perceive others’ emotion
- Tantrums and temper outbursts
Tips for parents who have children with autism
Raising a child is difficult, period. But raising a child that has Autism Spectrum Disorder brings other factors into play that can make it even more challenging especially for those who haven’t been around those with Autism.
1- Get your child tested.If you suspect your child is on the Autism spectrum, get them tested. Once you know if your child has Autism or not, learn all there is to know about Autism. This will help you understand your child better, be informed of the best treatment options, and find a community with support.
2- Be an expert on your child. Get to know your child’s individual triggers, agitations, what soothes them, what makes them happy, etc. Learning the intricacies of your child will help you know how to best help them and avoid situations that could potentially trigger them. Look for their non-verbal cues that help you know their mood, what they want, how they feel, etc.
3- Accepting what is. It may be hard not to compare your child with Autism to other children their age or even to their other siblings, but try to avoid this. Accepting your child’s individuality and quirks will help you learn to love and appreciate them for who they are. Instead of seeing the differences, you’ll begin to see the blessings that have come into your life by having such a special child.
tips for children with autism
1- Stability and Structure. Stability and structure are needed for every child, but even more so for children with ASD. Stability and structure help children feel safe and can help them know what to expect. Children with ASD especially crave this structure and may have tantrums if the schedule is not followed. Create a schedule for meal times, bedtime, fun time, etc.
2- Positive Reinforcement. Children with ASD are highly sensitive. Since a common symptom of ASD is the inability to correctly read and understand emotions and social cues, rewarding good behavior will go a lot further than trying to correct unwanted behavior. Give reward, praise, and love when good behavior is demonstrated. Be specific about what it is you are praising them for.
3- PLAY! A child with ASD is still a child and craves play time. Help them find ways where they can be creative and express themselves. Play helps children express themselves and ultimately makes them happier. Make sure to have time every day to play with your child.