What is Autism?
Have you ever wonder what is autism? Autism or spectrum disorder is one kind of developmental disability that begins at birth or within the first three years of life. Autism occurs due to the neurological disorder where it changes the way of the brain functions. Autism has caused delays and many problems in many different skills from infancy to adulthood. Likewise, these children usually face difficulties in social interaction both in verbal and non-verbal communication. Most importantly, these children tend to be keen towards repetitive or restricted activities. As a matter of fact, the majority of autistic children look completely normal but they differ in terms of perplexing and distressing behaviours.
For another thing, children that diagnosed with autism might have similar features, however one person may have mild symptoms and another might have severe ones.
Below are the three types of spectrum disorder that could make parents understand more. :
- Autistic disorder (also known as “classic” autism) – It occurs by major delays in language, difficulties with social interactions, and unusual behaviours. Some people with autistic disorder also have impaired intellectual abilities.
- Asperger syndrome - Display some of the milder symptoms of autistic disorder, such as social challenges and unusual behaviours. They generally do not have any delays in language or impaired intellectual abilities.
- Atypical autism – Individuals typically have milder and fewer symptoms than those with autistic disorder. Symptoms may be limited to problems with language and social interaction.
Basically, most parents did not know what had the cause of autism and how does it happen. It makes most parents wondering how they get it, what mistakes that they did and more question that pop-up in their mind.
Here are the factors that cause autism that parents could understand. :
- Taking antidepressants during pregnancy, especially in the first 3 months
- Nutritional deficiencies early in pregnancy, particularly not getting enough folic acid
- Fragile X syndrome ( the most common inherited form of intellectual disability)
- The age of the mother and father
- Complications at or shortly after birth, including very low birth weight and neonatal
- Maternal infections during pregnancy
- Exposure to chemical pollutants, such as metals and pesticides, while pregnant.
In addition, the sign or symptoms of spectrum disorder can be perceived by parents throughout infancy (18 to 24 months), but these symptoms usually become clearer during early childhood (24 months to 6 years). Parents can know the earliest sign of autism when they see the absence of normal behaviours towards their child.
Below are the signs of spectrum disorder that could be noticed :
- Does not Make eye contact, such as looking at you when being fed or smiling when being smiled at
- Does not respond to his or her name, or to the sound of a familiar voice
- Does not follow an object visually or follow your gesture when you point things out.
- Does no point or wave goodbye, or use other gestures to communicate
- Does make noise to get attention
- Does not initiate or respond to cuddling or reach out to be picked up.
- Does not imitate your movements and facial expression
- Does not play with other people or share interest and enjoyment
Above all, autistic children may look completely normal but they have really different in character compared to the normal kids. These children face difficulties in behaviour, social interactions, communication, and other sensory activities. Some of this characteristics are common among children with spectrum.
Below are the characteristics that parents could know :
- Difficulties in social interaction with others. ( poor in talking back and forth, working or playing with others)
- Different interest in objects or things. (play with toys in different or unusual ways)
- Need for similarity. ( Can’t cope with changes in routine, clothes food, caregivers and other parts of their environment)
- Great variation in abilities.
- Difficulty in holding a pencil but have a strong memory for the words of songs or movies.
- Difficulty knowing how to play a game with a peer but may have a very good understanding of how computers work.
- Difficulty in speaking but able to build complex structures out of Lego.
- Under or over-reaction to one or more of the five senses: sight, touch, taste, smell, or hearing. (Bright sunlight may be disturbing, bothered by tags on their clothing or by loud noises)
- Repeated actions or body movements. (repeatedly flap their hands, jump, or walk on tiptoes)
- Unusual emotional reactions and expressions. (may get very angry when asked to stop playing and get ready for lunch)
- Talk constantly about specific things that interest them and be unaware that other people might not have the same level of interest.
Indeed, knowing that your child is diagnosed with spectrum disorder is very heart-wrenching and it does give parents anxiety, worries and also fear to face with the outside world. Some parents could just give up on their child. Therefore, with all the anxiety and fear there is always a way for parents to cope and be prepared with any consequences regarding their child.
Below are the tips for parents to accept autism and tips for their daily home life:
- Learn about autism. (Parents educate themselves with knowledge about autism, treatment options, ask the question and participate in the treatment decision.)
- Become an expert on your child. (Figure what cause your kid’s rebellious behaviours and what derived a positive response. What does your child find stressful or frightening? Calming? Uncomfortable? Enjoyable?)
- Accept your child, oddity and all. (Don’t only focusing on how your autistic child is different from other children and what they are “missing”. Practice acceptance and enjoy your kid’s oddity, celebrate small successes, and stop comparing your child to others.)
- Don’t give up. (Always have faith on your autistic child. Don’t jump to conclusions about what life is going to be like for your child)
Important tips for parents at home:
- Be consistent – Creating consistency in the child’s environment is the best way to reinforce learning. Encourage the child to transfer what he/she has learned from one environment to another.
- Stick to a schedule – Autistic children having difficulties with changes but if everything sticks to a schedule they tend to do the best and responded appropriately.
- Reward good behaviour – Giving the reward to the children such as a sticker or let them play with their favourite toys. Praised them for being good and being very specific about what behaviour they’re being praised for.
- Create a home safety zone - Build a space at home where your child can relax, feel secure, and be safe. Including setting boundaries in ways your child can understand. Also secured the house, especially if the child is prone to tantrum or other self-injurious behaviours.
- Use visual aids and signs to teach - Use signs and other visual aids throughout the house if your kids are a visual learner. The easiest way to guide a child who is nonverbal. Visual cues can be helpful such as coloured tape marking areas that are off limits, labelling items in the house with pictures.
Being a parent of an autistic child, make parents face the biggest obstacles where they have to think about how to educate their children. Some of them, think whether schooling may or may not be the right option for their autistic children. If parents have the option of keeping their child at home until they are old, I bet every parent will do that. However, parents should be open minded and think wisely. Autistic children also need to be exposed with the environment so that they will learn how to have a friend, how to communicate with people and know what they can do or don’t.
Parents should not be worried, in Malaysia, there are numbers of best special care centre for autistic children. This care centre will provide educational and training opportunities for the children. Apart from that, special care centre will try the best in helping parents with assistance and giving advice about autism.
Below is the link that parents can look up for the best special care centre: https://www.lookp.com/blog/the-best-special-care-center-in-kl-selangor