10 Ways to Care for a Child with Autism
It's not easy to take care of a child, and it's even harder if that child has special needs. While Malaysia has made great strides in terms of medical care, the same cannot quite be said for social and mental disorders. The more "taboo" side of things, so to speak.
Granted, advancements have been made and there is increasing awareness of the issue, but being brought up in an Asian country means that it's still not uncommon for such things to be swept to the side- deemed as too "shameful" to speak of. So what is one to do if their child falls under this category? Or more specifically, what should one do if their child happens to be autistic?
Love and embrace them for who they are, of course. Here are a couple of tips to help you along the way too:
Stick to a schedule
If there is one thing that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) strive for, it is consistency. Children with ASD do well in a highly structured environment, and in fact, need it. Make sure they have regular school, therapy, meal times, play time and bedtime, with minimal disruptions in between. Should there be an unprecedented disruption, be sure to let your child know in advance, in order to help them mentally prepare for the change.
It can be easy to get impatient with your child's seemingly unreasonable, difficult behaviour, but it would do you well to remember that they require a different sort of care from other children. Learn as much as you can about autism, and understand that their way of communication is different too. Equipping yourself with knowledge about this disorder will prove beneficial for you, your family and especially your child in the long run.
Reward good behaviour
Rewarding a child with ASD for good behaviour can go a very long way. Catch them doing something good and praise them for what they've done, and be specific about what it is they've done that helped gain your approval. Reward them by letting them play with their favourite toy or by letting them watch television, whatever it is that makes them happy.
Make time for fun
A child with ASD is still a child. Make time for play that has absolutely nothing to do with therapy. Figure out ways to have fun with your child in order to help them laugh, smile and come out of their shell. Playing is an important part of learning that shouldn't be cast to the side.
Don't just listen, look for non-verbal cues
Like any other child, you need to look for non-verbal cues in order to understand them better. Unlike other children, however, children with ASD need even more attention in this particular area. Pay attention to the non-verbal cues your child could be using to say that they are hungry, tired or irritated.
Try to understand why they're throwing a tantrum
Often times, when children with ASD are throwing a tantrum, it is because they feel as though they are not understood. And in order to get their message across, they resort to throwing tantrums. This is their way of communicating their frustration and getting your attention.
Pay attention to what makes your child uncomfortable
Many children with autism are either hypersensitive or under-sensitive to light, sound, touch, taste and smell. Understand what it is that makes your child uncomfortable. Find out what it is that calms them, gives them joy, makes them feel stressed out. If you understand what affects your child, you'll be able to prevent difficult situations and of course, create a happier, more comfortable life for them.
Take some time off
Every parent needs a break every now and then- and caring for a child with special needs can get especially tiring. Which is why you shouldn't feel bad about taking time off for yourself. After all, how can you give your child the love and care they deserve when you're feeling exhausted and stressed from it all? Look for someone you trust or a trained professional to take care of your child while you're away.
Look for help
Don't try to do everything on your own. You really don't have to. Look for special care, special schools that can provide for your child in ways that other establishments cannot. After all, it is at these centers that the help are trained to look after and guide children with ASD; they'd be able to help your child achieve their full potential and become well-balanced adults capable of looking after themselves.
Organisations such as The National Autism Society of Malaysia (NASOM) are always ready to help out whenever you need them to.
Joining a ASD support group can mean a world of difference to you and your family. It is not only a great way to meet parents who are facing the same situation as you, it is also a great way to share information, get advice and gain emotional support from each other. And if you're feeling a bit lonely from your predicament? These are the people you'll be able to turn to, fully knowing that they'll understand you.
Check out NASOM
Written by Crunch's Melissa Kartini