April 2nd was World Autism Awareness Day, a day to raise awareness about autism; what it means for those on the spectrum and more importantly how we can all support them in their daily lives. Parents need support when it comes to raising children on the spectrum; and they need to know that help is available. Below is a list of some of the top things parents need to know about autism. This guide will help parents separate some of the myths from the truth.
What is Autism
Autism is a developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and relate with others. This can mean they see, hear and feel the world differently to others.
Autism is what is known as a spectrum condition, this means it affects individuals in different ways. Some autistic people, for example, also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions.Autism is what is known as a spectrum condition, meaning it affects individuals in different ways. #LagosMums #AutismAwarenessDay Click To Tweet
Choosing a School for a child on the spectrum
According to Osarennoman Ojo-Aromokudu an Educational Diagnostician with Yela Educational Services; the choice of a Mainstream or special needs school depends on the severity of autism. What parents need to know about autism is that some children can function in a mainstream school; especially those who are high functioning. The advantage of the mainstream school is that it provides opportunities to develop social skills and may improve speech. The school will need to have special classes where IEPs are implemented; and offer other services that the child will need depending on the age.
Whether you choose a mainstream school or a special needs school, you should arrange a visit; and have a meeting with the management and get an idea of how they operate.
Observe the classroom as well as the other students and the teacher your child might be with. Take into account things like whether the school has a sensory room or, at least, a learning center where an overwhelmed child can go to regroup or decompress. One of the most important aspects of choosing a school, is qualified staff; especially principals and administrators who have training in specialist education. Read more here on how to choose a school for a child with autism.
How to help your Child with Autism Sleep Better
Most children with Autism have sleeping difficulties. A lack of a good night’s sleep can affect not only the child but everyone in his or her family; especially mum.
Their sleeping difficulties include difficulty falling asleep, inconsistent sleep routines, restlessness or poor sleep quality, waking early or waking frequently.
For tips on how to help your child with autism sleep better, read here. There are several adjustments you can make that should help and improve bedtime struggles.
Our Culture and Autism
Sometimes our culture can discourage parents from getting the diagnosis they need early on. A mother recounted how her motherly instincts had given her cause for worry as she noticed some developmental delays. Her relatives and even her husband were not willing to consider the possibility something was wrong. She persisted and got her child diagnosed; now she is thankful for the early intervention because she sees the improvement in her son.
What parents need to know about autism is that early intervention can certainly help a child live his or her best life with the condition.
Mrs. Adewole, director of TLPCentre Lekki, a day school for children with autism and other related developmental disorders; shares with us an educationist view on the realities of Autism; read here.
Can a child with Autism Excel?
Children on the spectrum need the attention of loving and committed parents and caregivers. This is the first step in helping a child with autism excel. A child on the spectrum needs people who stay interested in their activities. Their parents need to take notes of things that interest them and see it as a potential way of reaching them.
A real example is Tito Mukhopadhyay who was diagnosed with severe, nonverbal autism. His mum discovered he liked to look at calendars; so she took it upon herself to teach him numbers and alphabets. Tito learned to read and he was able to communicate excellently through writing; also authored a book of memoirs and poems. Read more here on how a child with autism can excel
Milestones and Early Intervention
As a parent, caregiver or someone that comes in contact with a child, there are specific social components of a child’s development, that might be red flags. What parents need to know is that Red flags simply mean ” okay, I will go for further evaluation”.
An example of a red flag is the lack of eye contact. If a child is not maintaining eye contact and you are trying to get his attention; “look at me” and the child is not having any of that, it could be a sign that there’s something wrong. Read more in our LagosMums interview with Monisola Olorunfemi, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst on the myths and facts about Autism.
There are some milestones that children need to be hitting between age 0 and 2. If parents notice certain things that are not happening then they need to dig deeper. They can either get access to developmental pediatricians or their regular pediatrician can work as a first stop; who will then refer the parent to the right specialist. Read full post
Hiring a Nanny for an Autistic Child
A lot of families use the services of a nanny and domestic staff for their children. A screening process might or might not exist. However, it is critical to carefully select the caregiver for a child on the spectrum. I have seen situations where a child on the spectrum is being mistreated; or treated quite harshly by their nanny or caregiver.
The kind of staff is key because anybody that will work with a child that has special needs has to have a lot of patience. Parents, need to train that staff; they can start by consulting with a behavioral analyst, or a professional to train the domestic staff. For more read here
Assistive Technologies for people diagnosed with Autism
Assistive technology depends on the needs and Individualized Education Program (IEP) of the child. Some of the tools include computer, ipads and other instructional materials. The child has to be assessed, diagnosed and have an IEP designed. The parents should be fully informed and involved in the implementation and progress evaluation of the IEP. Parents should be part of the team and take part in the interventions. Everyone needs to be properly trained and monitored to ensure that the plan is followed properly.
Lastly, parents must ensure that they are seeking the services of certified therapists and other professionals. For more visit the Autism and Special Needs Category