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Autistic Children | Autism Pal

Autistic Children

Understanding Your Autistic Child

Babies can often be hard to read. Parents often struggle with understanding what their child wants when one of their main forms of communication is crying. After a while, they learn what each cry means, and soon enough those children begin to speak and communicate.

However, some Autistic children may never speak, or they may have impaired communication skills. So they can have problems communicating what they are feeling, what they want, and what might be wrong if they are sick, hurt, scared or confused. Many autistic children have frequent tantrums because no matter how hard they try, they simply cannot convey what they are feeling or the frustrations they are experiencing to their parents.

Parents of autistic children can have the unique problem of not quite knowing if their child will ever be able to communicate in a way that allows for help and understanding. However, that does not mean that communication cannot happen. It simply means that parents have to learn to understand what their child does to indicate they are happy, sad, sick, or in need of something.

There are many communication challenges facing parents of autistic children. Even children who speak well may give the expected answer rather than really saying how they feel. They may always say they are ‘fine’ just because that is the expected answer. Instead, parents have to learn nonverbal clues or body language to gauge how their child is feeling. Just as any mother learns what a baby’s cry means, it is possible to learn postures and behaviors that signal the state of their child’s mood.

Many children on the autism spectrum suffer from sensory issues and sensory overload can often be the cause of problem behaviors. Solve the sensory problem and the behaviors usually improve.

Common signs that autistic children are suffering from stress are as follows:

- Hiding or withdrawal from family and friends
- Curing up into a ball to shut out others
- Sucking or chewing on clothing
- Repetitive actions i.e. rocking, spinning, flapping hands, pacing
- Muttering / crying
- Lashing out in anger
- Inappropriate laughter or hysterics
- Insomnia or waking often during the night
- Increased vocal volume

Other sources of stress other than sensory ones can be:

- Frustrations at being unable to effectively communicate
- Lack of interaction with peers
- School work or homework that is beyond the child’s capabilities
- Tests or other evaluation procedures
- Participating in games
- An unexpected change in routine or schedule
- Feeling excluded
- Feeling pressured into something
- Change of season / temperature

To help reduce the problem behaviors it’s important to try and figure out what is causing or contributing to their actions. If you know your child struggles with sensory issues, try not to place them in situations where there will be bright lights and loud noises.

Inform your child’s teachers and any therapists of your child’s known triggers so that these can be avoided where possible or worked on to try and reduce their impact.

If you are unsure what is causing your child’s problem behaviors then take a best guess. It may be a process of elimination is required to find out what is causing them stress, which in turn leads to the undesirable behavior. Think about what may have changed in their lives and if anything may be stressful for them - Even if the changes are quite minor.

You may want to also consider any changes that would effect your child’s senses, which may not initially be noticeable. Consider if there are potential changes in the following “sensory” areas:

- Hearing
- Sight
- Touch
- Smell
- Taste
- Vestibular (Inner Ear)
- Proprioceptive (Muscles and Joints)

Changes to any of these “senses” without warning can upset Autistic children who have sensory sensitivities.

A good way of understanding which sensory stimuli your Autistic child likes and dislikes is to construct a table listing the senses and possible sources, and what their reaction is to each of the stimuli against each of the senses.

This can help to identify those stimuli that can cause problems.

If your child struggles to communicate vocally or fails to make themselves understood then some parents have had success using picture cards to communicate with their autistic children.

The pictures are used in place of words for both verbal and nonverbal children. One suggestion would be to have two cards, each with a different face, one happy and one sad. Ask them to point the appropriate card to help you understand what it is that is upsetting them.

Finally, when asking your child’s about their concerns, keep the question simple, be patient and repeat the question. Many children with Autism have a slower speed of processing questions so using “stripped” down language and being patient can really help.

Autism Treatment

If you’re worried that your loved one may have autism or your child has already received a formal diagnosis and you are wondering which way to turn next I would recommend you read ‘The Essential Guide to Autism’, an easy to follow, comprehensively researched downloadable book by Rachel Evans.

The Essential Guide to Autism covers vital autism information helping you to get a diagnosis, decide on which treatments are suitable for your loved one, whether diet or nutritional supplements provide relief from autism behaviors, along with information how autism effects the wider family and what to do, education, the teenage years and planning for the future. Discover how you can help to maximize the potential of someone with autism by reading The Essential Guide to Autism.