Autism for Kids — The Basics
As autism is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders, the chances of your child encountering someone autistic is substantial. They might be curious about certain mannerisms they observed of peers, family, and other children in a school environment. They might want to understand what makes an autistic person different. When approached with questions, it is an excellent opportunity for you to explain what autism is. But to do so effectively, you must first learn and grasp the basics yourself.
What Is Autism?
Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a bio-neurological developmental condition that impacts social interactions and cognitive functions. Because its symptoms are so varied in characteristic and degree, it is measured on a broad spectrum, with communication being the main challenge.
Most people with ASD have issues connecting with others. Preliminary signs include:
- Limited or completely nonverbal exchanges.
- Trouble holding eye contact.
- Repetitive behaviors.
- Avoidance of participation in group activities.
Autistic individuals are highly sensitive to their setting and sometimes “act out” or display highly emotional responses when dealing with frustrations. Often, they are also exceptionally gifted and possess very extraordinary talents in mathematics, music, mechanics, and the visual arts.
The number of individuals diagnosed has risen in recent years, but the cause is still unknown. Analysis and detection usually occur at a very young age, but studies regarding how autism affects adults.
Some people with autism need a lot of assistance to manage and organize their day. Some have little to no hindrances and live a well-adjusted and balanced life. Currently, there is no cure, but it is very treatable. With early intervention and therapy, symptoms can be greatly improved. The goal is to mold high-functioning individuals with the adequate skills to care for themselves independently.
Nearly three-quarters of autistic children also have comorbidity or another medical or psychiatric condition. These co-occurring conditions, like Anxiety, Depression, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), can affect how autism is diagnosed, progresses, and how well therapies work. Naturally, they should be treated separately.
ABA and PEAK
Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) is the most common treatment for managing autism. It reinforces skills through strategies that encourage constructive habits and practices while focusing on reducing unwanted conduct.
One of the newer tools used is PEAK Program ABA. PEAK (Promoting the Emergence of Advanced Knowledge) is a research-based comprehensive tool similar to ABA, except combined with training the ability to make relations between concepts beyond taught language. The curriculum has proven successful when working with autistic children of all ages in a learning and clinical atmosphere. For more information, contact a center to learn about the PEAK ABA assessment.
Other Therapy Options:
- Behavior management
- Cognitive behavior therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Speech-language therapy
- Nutritional and diet therapy
Keep It Simple
Autism is a complicated condition for even adults to dissect, so when discussing the topic with children, it is best to keep the conversation simple and direct. If your child is asking questions, it shows that they care enough to address the matter, but there are misunderstandings they want to clarify.
It is wonderful that they came to you for reliable answers instead of assuming things. Autism is usually clouded with stereotypes, and quieted, unanswered curiosities lead to erroneous conclusions. Avoid technical jargon and big words that might cause further confusion. You can find creative ways of introducing essential vocabulary while sticking to age-appropriate language.
Find Resources That May Help Explain Autism
Do as much research as possible to supplement your familiarity with ASD. It is impossible to explain something correctly that you do not understand yourself. And you really want to do your best to transfer the best information, so build your catalog of general facts with the abundance of material available.
Find a collection of great literature on the subject. There are scores of essays written by both autistic people and non-autistic acquaintances that can provide useful statements, stories, accounts, and experiences. Utilize picture books as a visual tool to make it easier to illustrate concepts to smaller children. Find characters in stories with traits to help them identify with a person on the spectrum.
There is plenty of data online but beware of negative or untrustworthy reading. Seek out established associations, support groups, and professionals for advice. Ask the Autistic community for any additional guidance and recommendations.
Expect to Have More Than One Conversation
Your child should come back with more questions, so don’t assume you have to answer them all at once. And don’t feel embarrassed to say you do not know the answers to something. Be honest and take your time to gather any pertinent and truthful information before returning to the discourse.
It is fine to compile your own inquiries to explore and share. It will encourage children to delve into their curiosity and to feel free to ask more questions. Keep the conversation open and be prepared to undo any adverse preconceived notions.
Labeling someone with autism has been attached to stigma, so don’t be afraid to use the word in a positive light. Talking more will eventually inspire the elimination of bias and prejudice. Shunning or evading discussing the matter reinforces the assumption that being autistic is shameful. Explain to children that being different does not equate to something bad.
Autistic people can be some of the kindest because they are so much more sensitive than others. Help your child to view autism as more of a personality trait than a disability. Because they usually seem disinterested, distant, and aloof, the autistic struggle with loneliness and crave companionship. They face obstacles in building relationships. Teach your child not to hesitate to initiate a friendship and reach out to someone who is autistic. It would probably mean more to them than it shows.
Suggest Ways for Them to Interact With Others
Children may have some difficulty understanding all of the bearings that someone with ADS might express. It is helpful to share approaches to improve and encourage interactions in ways that are inviting and most comfortable for all. For example, they still might have trouble understanding the meltdowns, disconnections, or sensory issues.
It is important to educate children not to fear these behaviors but to give the person space and time to calm and recollect. It is key to have patience and compassion for actions that might not seem normal, common, or expected. Show your child that, like all people, they should treat autistic individuals with respect and courtesy.
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