Today marks the fourteenth annual World Autism Awareness Day, that is April 2, 2021.
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.It is estimated that worldwide one in 160 children has an autism spectrum disorder.
Recognized internationally, the World Autism Day began as a movement to spread awareness about the autism spectrum disorder. Autism-Friendly events and educational activities take place throughout April, aiming to increase understanding of autism.
While there is still a great need to inform people about autism, the focus has shifted away from simply making people aware that the disorder exists towards the world coming together to offer love, acceptance, support and inclusivity to children and adults with autism. A day alone isn’t enough to extend our compassion and support.
Here are five ways in which you can support your child with autism and make their life easier:
- RECOGNIZING THE SIGNS: early detection and intervention with treatment and services are essential to improve a child’s development and functionality for a lifetime. This can be done with the help of identifying common signs and symptoms of Autism, which include:
- Persistent repetition of words or actions
- Difficulty in social interaction
- Low attention span
- Poor eye contact
- Delayed speech
- Intense interest in a limited number of things
- Not responding to their name
It is also important to remember that autism does not present itself in the same manner in every child.
- COMMUNICATION IS KEY: Children with autism tend to communicate differently as they often get fixated on certain phrases and keep repeating them. Gently redirecting them to the next topic might work. They also avoid eye contact. Patience is a must to build a bond. Talking about things they like can help the conversation move along smoothly. Children with autism can also be quite literal when expressing their needs. These need to be addressed politely.
- BEING AWARE OF THE CHALLENGES: Children with ASD are highly sensitive to touch, sound, light, taste, and smell. Steering clear of noise and bright colours can help create a soothing environment for them and avoid sensory overload. They are also not comfortable with the concept of physical affection and like to maintain personal boundaries. Creating healthy space and distance while communicating with a child with autism can help create a positive environment.
- CELEBRATING YOUR CHILD’S STRENGTHS: Celebrating the strengths of your children can instill confidence in them and help them face their challenges without feeling low. These may include exceptional honesty, punctuality, attention to detail, ability to remember things in a precise manner. Some children may excel in academics and be able to learn through visual memory.
- DIFFERENTIATED LEARNING: Children with autism possess an excellent memory and respond better to visual learning aids rather than plain text. It is important to include a lot of pictures while helping them learn. It is also important to find an environment or school that is best suited for your child’s needs. Look for a school that is inclusive and has the required support staff to help your child thrive.
Given the prevalence and complexity of autism, it’s important to be aware of ways you can support children that are dealing with the condition; to help them overcome obstacles. Don’t be shy about seeking the right kind of support for your child – and yourself. It is important to understand that although autistic children may have a different way of perceiving the world, the more we accept the differences, the easier it is for them to integrate into society.