In India, around 17.2 million kids are supposed to be challenged with the disorder of autism. Despite this, autism awareness has not reached a level where we could declare ourselves aware of this issue. Autism or ASD (autism spectrum disorder), as it is broadly classified, is a developmental disorder that affects a child’s ability to read, write, communicate, and comprehend things. Initially, medical experts classified autism into four types, i.e., Asperger’s Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, ASD, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder. However, all these issues are now covered under the broader term ASD. The reason behind ASD is a genetic disorder or genetic mutations.
ASD typically affects children’s social interaction by impairing their ability to communicate. Several behavioural patterns, such as difficulty adjusting to new surroundings, repetitive behaviour, etc., have been observed in children who have ASD. Unfortunately, their parents find it challenging to understand the symptoms of autism until the children are 18 months and older.
The early symptoms of ASD include:
- Issues in responding to questions and maintaining a steady flow of communication
- Refraining from making eye contact or making inconsistent and very little eye contact
- Sleeping issues
- Reacting extremely to any changes in routine
- A flat voice tone that lacks emotions
- Repeating words or activities
- Kids challenged with autism usually take deep interest in certain things
- Being sensitive when it comes to some sensory perceptions like noise, light, etc.
- Not responding when their names are called out
- Being engrossed in their own world
- Inflicting injuries to self like biting and slapping
Since most of the brain development happens in the first three years of a child’s growth, treating autism during this phase proves to be effective in minimising these issues. However, once a child is older than 36 months, it would be challenging to address and treat ASD. Therefore, initiatives to spread autism awareness must be taken at a larger level, especially in a country in India where the literacy rate is low.
Is there a way to treat autism?
Sadly, there is no way to treat autism as it is not a disease. The most essential thing is to understand such children and address their psychological needs. Supporting them emotionally will certainly help. However, if the parents start disowning such children due to their inability to learn and communicate smoothly, the situation might worsen. As a society, we must be more empathetic towards these children. Labelling them as maniacs or mad and ridiculing them would be the worst possible behaviour that we can show. Even parents should open up about the issues of their kids and support them emotionally. Not allowing them to play with other kids and getting angry at them because of their learning challenges will certainly not help in any way.
Also, pitying such children is also not the right thing to do. Instead, they must be treated like any other kids. Parents and teachers must try to cultivate their hobbies that could lead to their psychological development. Moreover, one must understand that every autistic child does not show all the symptoms. Also, the pace of development of such children can vary greatly. Therefore, parents, siblings, teachers, etc., must be more patient with these kids.
What should the parents do?
The role of the parents is the most crucial when it comes to the progress of autistic children. Therefore, inculcating autism awareness among parents is the key responsibility of the medical practitioners and counsellors. Parents of such children should not look at autism as a sign of ill fate or punishment of God. These parents often get confused due to the wide range of symptoms associated with ASD. As a result, they start to treat their kids as patients with mental health conditions and try to outcast them from society. This is the biggest mistake that the parents can make. Another mistake is not accepting that their child is autistic. It is often observed that parents refrain from accepting that their child has learning or communication issues. They feel that their children are still young and will cope up as time progresses. However, this may lead to complications, as starting the treatment early is the most effective solution for autism. Once the autistic children cross the age of 3 years, it would be difficult to change their habits, and when one asks them to change their ways, they might react aggressively.
Instead, parents of such children should start motivating their children and find ways of dealing with them with love and affection. Most autistic children have certain qualities and interests that can be polished by their parents. Special attention to these skills can help them greatly in the future. There are many artists and celebrities who have autism but are masters in their field and have won the admiration and respect of everyone. Even Sir Albert Einstein, the famous mathematician and scientist, had autism in his early childhood.
Some extraordinary strengths or qualities of autistic children include:
- A sharp memory for figures and certain facts
- Deep knowledge in their area of interest
- Being enthusiastic in certain activities and a keen interest in sharing their joy with others
- Solving some problems innovatively
- Focussing on details
- Showing accuracy in certain activities and tasks
- Creative skills like painting, crafts, building models, etc.
- A sense of humour that is far different than others
- Having unique perspectives about certain issues which enables them to provide deep insights on some subjects
- Showcasing honesty in friendship and love
With special skills like these, even autistic children can excel in their lives. We only have to encourage them mentally and emotionally. World Autism Awareness Day falls on the 2nd of April every year. Parents can celebrate this day with their autistic kids and normal kids together. Also, they can use this opportunity to educate those who are not well aware of ASD.
Do autistic children lack physical growth?
Yes, autistic children might not be as strong as normal kids of their age. Autistic kids might refrain from engaging in physical activities, especially when it involves other kids as well. It is because they don’t like to be loud, and neither can they be as active and social as other kids are. This hinders their physical development, and they tend to appear less strong than others.
Muscle development is a serious issue with some autistic kids. Therefore, they must be encouraged to indulge in an exercise routine that keeps them active and fit. Parents should monitor their kids when they exercise as their motor skills are far underdeveloped compared to a normal child. Also, if possible, the parents must design an exercise routine that is risk-free and safe for them.
For instance, regular walking after meals, playing with family members, taking the dog for a walk, etc., can be some exercises that an autistic kid might not mind doing. Also, once the regular exercise kicks in, the parents should focus on developing their motor skills. For example, they can teach them running, skipping, cycling, etc. Though these kids will take time to learn these things, they will eventually manage to grasp them. However, it does not mean that they can be allowed to ride a bicycle alone on a busy street; they need to be monitored at all times. Teaching to throw or catch a ball could also help develop their motor skills.
Slowly, the parents can ask them to interact and play more with others. However, the parents must ensure that they are only amidst those people who understand and are empathetic towards autism. If necessary, the parents can check the Autism awareness of such people and inform them about certain things and behaviour of their kids. These things can go a long way to helping autistic kids shape and transform their lives.
Can autistic kids learn new languages?
Autistic kids have communication issues. It is mainly due to their lack of interest in conversing with others. However, their parents should try to generate interest in learning a new language in them; it could prove to help enhance their language skills. The parents and teachers must give them reasons to learn a new language or develop a language they already know. Initially, it could start with reciting the alphabet and naming the things, then progress to building their vocabulary.
For instance, autistic children don’t react when their names are called out. It is simply because they don’t identify themselves with that name. Their parents can name their favourite toys and keep them at places where they can’t reach these toys. By doing so, they should encourage them to call out their names. Similarly, they can teach them how to associate pictures with names. Once they know the names of their toys, teach them to do an activity as per the words that you say. For example, ask them to throw a ball when you ask them to do so. Such small things can make a great difference and develop their language skills faster. Also, rewarding them with gifts when they use language can be one way to promote their linguistic skills.
Parents can also make them learn languages through the things that they love to do. For example, if their child loves to paint, the parents can name the things and ask them to paint or draw that. It is also essential that the parents don’t limit the skills and interests that they already possess. These things are also important for their emotional and psychological development. Also, it is perfectly fine for them to enrol their autistic children in the same school as other normal children study. However, they can ask the teachers to be more patient or attentive towards their children because of their learning and comprehending issues. It is observed that even many teachers in India are not fully aware of what ASD or autism means. Therefore, it is the duty of educational institutes and parents to inform them about it and spread autism awareness in the teaching fraternity.
How to spread autism awareness?
Parents of autistic kids have two main goals in their lives. The first goal is to become completely aware of autistic symptoms that their child has. Secondly, they need to spread autism awareness by informing everyone who comes into regular contact with their child about autism and its challenges. To develop their own knowledge, they can talk with medical practitioners who are experts in handling autism. They can also read blogs and articles that provide in-depth knowledge and insights on autism.
There are various social media platforms and groups that run autism awareness initiatives. You can also create your own groups on social media and add people who are dealing with autistic kids to spread more awareness in society. Sharing knowledge and experience can be a great way to build awareness on this subject.
Ketto is an online platform that consists of members from the medical fraternity. You will find patients, their family members, doctors, health experts, consultants, physiotherapists, and regular people on this platform. Therefore, if anyone in your family is autistic, join this community and take suggestions from experts and parents who have a lot of common experiences and tips to share with you. Ketto indulges in fundraiser programs for those who are needy and require urgent medical attention. You can contribute to such programs or create a fundraiser to help others Transform Lives through India’s Top Crowdfunding Platform: Ketto. With these online campaigns, you can spread autism awareness and help autistic kids and parents financially. There are numerous other issues that are regularly being addressed through this platform. Join Ketto today and make a difference in the lives of others!
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