Caring For A Child Who Is Living With Autism

Creating a protective space for your child

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Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash
Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

When putting together a treatment plan for your child, keep in mind that there is no single treatment that works for everyone. Each person on the autism spectrum is unique, with different strengths and weaknesses.

There are no medications that can cure ASD or treat the core symptoms. However, there are medications that can help some people with ASD function better. For example, medication might help manage high energy levels, inability to focus, anxiety and depression, behavioral reactivity, self-injury, or seizures.

The pandemic has had an acute impact on those with care and support needs, carers, and staff. The care and help available may be limited at times compared with usual provision, because staff may be ill or self-isolating. Autistic people and people with learning disabilities are likely to be worried about their own health, and that of their loved ones, while also having routines interrupted, and access to friends or colleagues halted if anyone needs to isolate.

With the number of children believed to have an autism spectrum disorder continuing to rise, it’s clear that more living, working and support options are greatly needed for them once they lose their special schooling and services. What’s also clear: Both adult self-advocates and parents must be part of the process, providing input as to what those options should be.

Through research, there has been much that has been learned about autism spectrum disorder over the past 20 years. There is ongoing active research on the causes of ASD, early detection and diagnosis, prevention, and treatments.

Experts do not know exactly what causes autism. In the past, people blamed parenting practices, which added a burden of guilt and shame on parents already struggling to cope with a disabled child. Today, most scientists believe that a combination of genetic and environmental factors causes autism.

It’s easy for any parent to become anxiously focused on how their child is developing, but parents of children with autism are at particular risk for excessively worrying about their children and what challenges they may face in the future. If you’re feeling stressed, ask yourself whether you’re focused on the reality-based needs of your child or the future “What ifs.” Asking, “What is my responsibility to my child today and to myself?” can help you direct your focus back to what you can actually control.

Living with a person with an ASD affects the entire family including the parents, siblings, and in some families, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Meeting the complex needs of a person with an ASD can put families under a great deal of stress which involves emotional, financial, and sometimes even physical stress.

Respite care can give parents and other family caregivers a needed break and help maintain family well-being.

There are many types of treatments available. These include applied behavior analysis, social skills training, occupational therapy, physical therapy, sensory integration therapy, and the use of assistive technology.

People with autism have the same health problems as the general population. However, they may, in addition, have specific health-care needs related to ASD or other co-occurring conditions. They may be more vulnerable to developing chronic noncommunicable conditions because of behavioral risk factors such as physical inactivity and poor dietary preferences and are at greater risk of violence, injury, and abuse.

Create a home safety zone. Carve out a private space in your home where your child can relax, feel secure, and be safe. This will involve organizing and setting boundaries in ways your child can understand. Visual cues can be helpful (colored tape marking areas that are off-limits, labeling items in the house with pictures). You may also need to safety proof the house, particularly if your child is prone to tantrums or other self-injurious behaviors.

Families perceive signs of autism, however, believe that there are not suspicious behaviors, but the child’s personality. When the diagnosis is defined, family acceptance is painful and sad. The mother shows to be the main caretaker, while the father remains in the background. A significant change of direction of the family towards the care/attention/stimulation of the autistic child is observed.

A broad range of interventions, from early childhood and across the life span, can optimize the development, health, well-being, and quality of life of people with autism. Timely access to early evidence-based psychosocial interventions can improve the ability of children with autism to communicate effectively and interact socially. The monitoring of child development as part of routine maternal and child health care is recommended.

With so many different treatments available, it can be tough to figure out which approach is right for your child. Making things more complicated, you may hear different or even conflicting recommendations from parents, teachers, and doctors.

Given these prolonged and multidimensional care needs of children with ASD, it is important to accurately measure the impact of caregiving on the lives of the parents of these children. At present, evaluations of ASD treatments are often limited to the measurement of effects in children. However, interventions for children with ASD often require parents’ involvement and also aim to increase parents’ caregiving skills, self-efficacy, knowledge of the disorder, and aim to reduce family stress (McConachie and Diggle 2007).

Furthermore, the improved well-being of parents could positively influence the effect these interventions have on children with ASD (Giallo et al. 2013; Osborne et al. 2008). Hence, for fully understanding the effectiveness of ASD interventions it is essential that family outcomes of interventions are also included in evaluation studies (Karst and Van Hecke 2012). Insights from such studies will help develop interventions focusing on the needs of children with ASD and their families and facilitate consideration of those in both policy and funding decisions in health care.

ASD is most often a life-long condition. Both children and adults with autism benefit from behavioral interventions or therapies that can teach new skills to address the core deficits of autism and to reduce the core symptoms. Every child and adult with autism is unique. For this reason, the treatment plan is individualized to meet specific needs. It is best to begin interventions as soon as possible, so the benefits of therapy can continue on throughout the course of life.

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