World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) is celebrated on April 2 across the world. This year marks the the ninth annual celebrations of the day. On December 18, 2007, the United Nations declared April 2 to be known as WAAD from then on and countries have since then endeavored to build awareness around and about autism and how to battle it. Also known as autism spectrum disorder, this social development disorder affects the cognition, communicative and interactive ability of a child to a very large extent. And their immediate social agents, like parents, teachers and siblings, play an important role in ensuring children with autism are given special care and attention.
As important world buildings like the White House will shine blue to mark autism awareness this day, here are some ways that parents can help their children adapt more comfortably to situations.
With inputs from Dr Mukta Vasal, PhD, Mom’s Belief Chief Child and Adolescent Psychologist and Dr Kamna Chhibber, Head of Mental Health Department at Fortis Healthcare, here are useful tips on how parents can help children with autism.
* Parents should keep their sentences brief and precise. Especially when they talk to children with a limited vocabulary, simple an direct instructions like sit down, eat your food, etc., make it much easier for them to understand.
* Parents must try and understand their child’s strengths and weaknesses and reinforce positive values by rewarding them.
* It is important that parents understand how their child adapts to learning better — through visual, kinesthetic or audio cues.
* Parents should especially look out for non-verbal cues from their children. An autistic child is mostly known to use sounds, expressions, gestures and depend on body language to communicate his needs.
* It is important to keep in mind the child’s sensitivity to sensory input. Some of the children battling autism are highly sensitive to touch, smell, light or noise. It is therefore important to understand them to help your child avoid coming in contact with these factors.
* Parents should ensure they have a routine. A structured and disciplined schedule is required to help your child feel secure. Prepare your child well in advance for disturbances in his or her routine — such as holidays.
* Help the child work on the same project in different environments. This helps him or her to generalise the learnt behaviour, helping them adapt better to new or unusual situations.
* Visual cues could be one of the effective forms of communication that parents can use to engage their children. Children with autism depend a lot on visual aids to build their cognitive understanding of what objects, drawings, symbols and objects are.