To this day there is no single known cause for Autism. The severity and symptoms may vary from patient to patient, however, research suggests that genetics and environment may play a role. Below we will discuss the genetic and environmental factors, separately.
Genetics: There are several genes involved in Autism spectrum disorder, for some children autism can be associated with a genetic disorder such as Rett syndrome or fragile X syndrome. Genes may affect the way brain cells communicate with one another, or they may determine the severity of the symptoms. As we know by now, some genes are inherited while others occur spontaneously.
Environmental factors: Researchers are currently looking at factors such as viral infections, complications during pregnancy or air pollutants to establish whether or not they may play a role in triggering Autism spectrum disorder.
As a parent, all you want is for your child to be healthy and happy. So if you’ve recently learnt your child has or might have autism, you’re most probably scared of what’s to come. As a parent, you may feel unsure of how to help your child or confused by conflicting treatment advice and that’s okay. While it’s true that Autism is not something your child will “grow out of” there are numerous treatments available to help your child acquire new skills to overcome a wide variety of developmental challenges. Below is a list of tips to help your child thrive.
Learning all you can about autism and getting involved in treatment will go a long way toward helping your child. Additionally, the following tips will make daily home life easier for both you and your child with ASD.
Be consistent: It is important to remember that autistic children find it very difficult to apply what they have learnt in one setting. For example, your child may learn sign language and use it to communicate at school but won’t think to do so at home. So by creating consistency in your child’s environment you also create an environment that reinforces what they have learnt. You can speak to your child’s therapists and continue building on their techniques at home. It is also very important to be consistent with any form of interaction and the way you deal with challenging behaviour.
Stick to a schedule: Children with ASD need and crave a highly structured schedule, so set up a schedule for your child with regular times for meals, therapy, school and bedtime. If there’s an unavoidable schedule change, its best to prepare your child in advance to try and keep disruptions to the routine to a minimum.
Reward good behaviour: Positive reinforcement goes a long way with children struggling with ASD. Make an effort to notice when they act appropriately or learn a new skill and praise them for it. Also look for other ways to reward them for good behaviour, such as giving them a sticker or letting them play with a favourite toy.
Look for nonverbal cues: Children with ASD uses non-verbal cues to communicate, so by paying attention to the kind of sounds they make or facial expressions and gestures they use, you gain a better understanding of what they want and need at that point in time.
Pay attention to your child’s sensory sensitivities: Most children with ASD are sensitive to things such as light, sound, touch, taste and smell. Remaining aware of the reaction to these senses may help you understand what your child finds stressful, calming, uncomfortable or enjoyable. When you understand what affects your child, you will be able to better manage their emotional responses, preventing situations that cause difficulty and stress for them.