AUTISM: Understanding Challenging Behaviours.


“Have you ever had the experience where your child is doing something that you don’t want them to do, and they just won’t stop? You try everything from reasoning with them, scolding them, ignoring the behaviour, but nothing works?” “It can feel as if you’re fighting a losing battle…” If this sounds familiar, then read on.

What is autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex, life-long developmental disability. It affects how people interact and communicate with others. ASD can cause challenges in social interactions, language development, sensory processing, and even non-verbal communication.

Autism usually appears during early childhood. Children with autism can exhibit certain behaviours. They are diagnosed as having a “spectrum condition” that affects them differently and to different degrees. Early signs of autism spectrum disorder show up when babies, especially in their language and social skills. In addition to language and speech delays, children within the ASD spectrum may find it hard to express their thoughts, needs, or feelings.

Five things to know about autism from a parent perspective:

Being a parent to an autistic child can bring a lot of gamuts of emotions. From wondering if your child will ever turn out to be “normal” or what life will be like with them to feeling helpless and frustrated when they refuse to listen.
That being said, parents of autistic children must understand their behaviours and what may trigger specific actions, so you can best help your child learn how to cope with these challenges.

1. Children with autism develop in different ways. Some children show early warning signs, and specific developmental milestones may be delayed. While some may appear to develop normally but then show signs of a developmental slowdown and displaying autism-associated behaviours. Some children, however, lose words and abilities they once possessed.

2. Autistic children may seem socially distant, but they are immensely affectionate towards their families. They want to make friends, but they need your help to help them develop their social skills and get along with others.

3. Non-verbal children with autism can significantly benefit from technology. For example, the use of visual communication can aid children with autism in fostering their communication and language skills. Example of supportive, visual communication tools includes AAC system or augmentation and alternative communication such as Picture Exchange Communication System or specialised apps on an iPad.

4. Although autistic children can speak and display a high IQ, they still face invisible challenges. They have trouble understanding abstract language. Consequently, they may find it challenging to process spoken or written language.

5. Children with autism process sensory information differently. It might be that they are overly or inadequately sensitive to touch, sound, sight, and taste. Some of these can affect their ability to eat certain foods, wear certain clothing’s or tolerate certain sounds.

How to help your autistic child thrive:

A child within the AD spectrum may face many challenges that need to be overcome. Below are some parenting tips to help you help your child.

1. Help your child and yourself cope with the daily challenges at home
Children with ASD may find it hard to apply skills they learn in one setting to another. So, be consistent. If your child uses sign language to communicate at school, then do so at home. Your child will learn best if their environment is constant.
Routines and schedules that are highly structured also seem to benefit them. Create a schedule for your child that includes school hours, regular mealtime, therapy sessions, and bedtimes. Limit disruptions to this schedule. In case of a schedule change, prepare your child ahead of time.

2. Develop a customised autism treatment plan
Choosing the proper treatment for your child can be tricky. Adding to the complexity, you may hear different, and sometimes conflicting, recommendations from teachers, other parents, and doctors.
It is important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for children. Autism affects every individual differently, and your child’s treatment should be customised to suit their needs. As a parent, you know your child best. So, it is your responsibility to make sure those needs are met.

3. Connect in non-verbal ways
Communication and bonding with a child with ASD can be challenging, but you don’t need to speak to achieve it. Your body language, the tone of voice, the way you look at them, and even the way you touch them are all non-verbal forms of communication.
Your child also communicates with you, even if they never speak. All it takes is for you to learn the language.

Remember that the key to success for your ASD child starts with you. As their advocate, they will need your support from time to time. To be there for them when they need you most, make sure you take care of yourself as well. It’s a challenge, but one that is well worth tackling.

If you would like to speak with a counsellor about how we can support you, please contact us.

Liz McCaughey

Find out more about Liz here