Thompson (2012) tells us that, “To a child with autism, the world is a very confusing and sometimes scary place. They don’t understand what people say to them and the meaning behind people’s actions. They don’t understand what will occur, in which order it will occur, or when it will occur.” Children who don’t understand these things start building up a fear of ‘changes’. If a daily routine is changed, aggression occurs, intending to make their parents restore things to the way they ‘ought’ to be – from their perspective.
Parents ask, “Is she ever going to be like other kids?” Or say, “Her rituals are driving us crazy!” “She has to be the first one in the car.” “If she isn’t she starts kicking her mother or me, screaming, and throwing herself on the ground.” “She has to have things her way.” “She’s spoiled!”
Understanding that the child is NOT spoiled, the child has autism. She has no idea what other awful thing is going to happen if she doesn’t get in the car first.” Changing routine for this child is possible, but it has to be done in stages, over several days or even weeks. No just springing it on her, sending her into a panic.
< My Thoughts >
Hopefully you have learned something about your child’s temperament. Maybe you have found out that your child is just a ‘rascal’ at heart. Or, like Sonny, has the sweetest of dispositions. So, how do you understand your child’s autism, and the ‘core’ nature of it? By learning the your child’s symptoms, you can understand the methods that will help your child, and those that probably won’t.
Some parents are ‘spontaneous’ by nature. They are instant ‘problem solvers’, changing-up things in the blink of an eye as necessity requires. But, this ‘changing-up things in the blink of an eye’ can send a child with autism spinning out of control. Some children need to have a ‘social story’ about a ‘change’ which might occur. Knowing this can help family situations go more smoothly, with less drama. Smiles.
Note: More about Social Stories in BLOG #3B What to do While You Wait... Work on these SKILLS... COGNITION.
Getting help with behavior problems can come from medical solutions or behavioral interventions. Finding out the source of the tantrum, meltdown, aggressive outburst, compulsive behavior and self-injury can not only help the child, but may keep the family from falling apart. Prepare yourself parents; there are no easy answers because so many domains are involved and so many people out there will be trying to insert themselves into your life.
According to Thompson (2012), intensive home-based therapies requiring strong family skills and collaboration is not a viable option for them. This is for a variety of mental health reasons, personality characteristics, belief systems, and other reasons some families are just unable to do this. Other families, however, may find that they can participate in interventions with reasonable goals, professional support and training, and other school or center-based services for their child.
When it comes to providing special insights into children with ASD, doctors, teachers, therapists, and interested professionals, all have their own perspectives and solutions. But in the last analysis, parents are the ones who know their children best.
Parents serve as the conduit through which teachers’ and therapists’ efforts are realized. Parents and family must be comfortable with daily routines, their role and responsibility and the ecology of the home environment. Teachers and therapists play a very important role in your child’s life. But in the end, limited progress can be made without the full cooperation and participation of the family. And, doctors confess, “Despite the progress that has been made, we are not able to stop Autism.”
Sicile-Kira (2014) tells us that due to the nature of Autism, it is difficult to ascertain the cognitive level of people on the spectrum. Some or all of their senses are a 100 times more sensitive than others and therefore they process the environment differently. More and more it is understood that there is a challenge with ‘output’. That is they are NOT able to respond verbally to what they hear and understand.
This author goes on to say that the field of neuroscience has grown tremendously in the last decade, giving us a greater understanding of the brain, the spinal cord, and networks of sensory nerve cells which are involved. We are learning how neurons, throughout the body relate to behaviors, reason, and emotions – all important to the understanding of autism. We understand that the first step in gaining and knowing autism is to gather knowledge.
Sicile-Kira also believes that individuals with autism have ‘meltdowns’ – expressions of frustration at themselves or others. It’s important to understand that all behavior is a form of communication and try to understand what is going on. Could the child be having a form of self-aggression; pain; sensory overload, or having a type of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) flashback? Over time, individuals can learn to self-regulate these problems, but they will need help.
For the very young, and those who are nonverbal, behaviors can be the only way for them to communicate a problem with their surroundings, or pain, anxiety, and even panic attacks. The brain structure of many people with ASD is unlike ours, with some processing circuits wired differently. It is important to realize that they cannot help what they are doing; they are NOT ‘just being difficult’.
She tells us that some children’s digestive systems are not working properly, making it impossible to digest essential nutrients needed for brain development. If the child has sensory challenges, this will impact everyday life. But, that no matter how bad the behavior or situation seems, there is always a solution. And mainly it is the parents’ attitude that will make the biggest difference.
And, for the family, sometimes it’s hard to harbor tender feelings toward someone who invades your personal space or tears your favorite pictures off the wall. Some of the behaviors exhibited by children with ASD is pretty typical of a much younger child’s behavior. It is hard for a sibling to deal with the idea that this child’s emotions and behaviors may never match his or her actual age.
< My Thoughts > “…much younger age.”
When Sonny acts out unexpectedly in front of others who don’t really know him, I often find myself saying… “I know he looks like an adult, but when he doesn’t understand what’s going on his Autism makes him seem like he’s stuck in the ‘Terrible Two’s’. Guess that’s why some call Autism the ‘invisible disability.’
Sicile-Kira, C. (2014). Autism Spectrum Disorder (revised): The Complete Guide to Understanding Autism; New York, New York: Penguin Random House Company
Thompson, T. (2012). Making Sense of Autism; Second Edition. Baltimore, Maryland: Brookes Publishing Company.
Next, Siri & Lyon say that mastering the functional capacities of the whole child will help them move up the ‘developmental ladder’. Strengthening the ‘whole child’ means attending to regulating their nervous system, their broad range of emotions, and their environment, in order to communicate physically and verbally. This will help them socialize and to think.
They caution parents that an intervention should have a model which knows how to identify areas needing support. The model would do this by looking at the child’s strengths as well as the challenges they face. This program should lead the child to more ‘functional’ behavior.
An efficient educational and behavioral management program will first require a thorough understanding of your child. For instance, how are they unique, where are they cognitively, how do they process information (seeing & looking, hearing & listening, and/or touching & doing)?