Monday, June 3, 2013

Tips for the Challenges of Autism

Please give a big, friendly welcome to my guest blogger today, Tasha, from A Tender Teacher for Special Needs. She is blogging about something near and dear to me heart:  Autism.  Whether you are a parent of a an Autistic child, like me, a teacher of Autistic children, or have a loved one on the ASD, you will enjoy reading today's post

Tips for the Challenges of Autism
Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder are general terms used to describe a cluster of intricate disorders that affect brain development.  There are varying degrees of this disorder that cause difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and behaviors that are repetitious.  The ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) umbrella consists of 5 subtypes: Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Rett’s Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder.  There are slight differences between these 5 subtypes, but the medical treatments and educational needs are congruent.
          Social interaction for autistic children is very challenging. The challenges that autistic children face with social interaction are very different, depending on the child. He/she can be nonverbal or may only speak a few words. Autistic children that are able to speak at their appropriate age level struggle to show facial expressions and emotions. There are actions that parents and professionals can take to teach social interaction. Eye contact is something that can be taught. Parents and professionals should take every opportunity to make eye contact. They can take time to do this through playtime or sensory activities. Another activity to teach social interaction is a game called charades. Most people are familiar with this game, but it really is effective when using picture cards of emotions. Lastly, use a mirror to teach facial expressions! Autistic children do not have a strong sense of self awareness, so this is really good practice.

       Communicating with other children and adults is also important for kids with autism. Like social interaction, communication will depend on the individual child’s needs and abilities. A popular strategy used for communication is schedule cards. Autistic children process and accept visual representation a lot better than someone just telling them what to do. It also gives them a sense of security because they will know what to expect each day. Another great strategy to use is picture cards. Autistic children get sick and upset just like we all do. Sometimes the only way they know how to express their frustrations are through screaming, hitting, biting, etc. Picture cards are an effective and safe way for them to show if they have an empty stomach, stomachache, or headache. Lastly, it is important to use very few words when communicating with autistic children. It takes them a little longer to take in and process our words. Therefore, the shorter you can keep your sentences, the better. It’s important to be concrete about what you say and that you give them plenty of wait time.
          Repetitive behaviors can be unhealthy or even dangerous. It is important to break any habits as quickly as possible. Positive and negative reinforcements will come in handy for this. To determine what kind of reinforcements to use, it is important to learn the child’s needs and interests. A lot of times, repetitious behavior is used for self-calming. Children with autism do not like to be touched most of the time, but they still need to feel loved and safe. Sensory integration can be very beneficial when showing a child proper ways to get that stimulation they need. Some sensory activities are; workboxes, swinging, deep pressure therapy, jumping on a trampoline, toys that are squeezable, and brushing their arms and legs with a soft, bristled brush. Be sure to brush in the direction that their hair grows though. Another possible reason for repetitive behavior in autistic children is that it may pertain to their interests. Be watchful and take notes to see when the repetitive behaviors are taking place. If you think it’s because of an interest, try to incorporate their interests into meaningful activities. 


          I hope that I have provided information in this post that can be useful for you in some way. Autistic children are challenging, but they need people to care and be patient. Sometimes that is hard to do when you feel like you are out of answers. I’d like to ask that you don’t give up on them. If something doesn’t work, try something else. They may not be able to verbalize it, but they need you.
     I’d like to give a big thank you to Lauren for allowing me to be a guest blogger on her page! It has been a joy to connect with Lauren, write this post, and to share it with others. If you want to connect, please visit my page at ‘A Tender Teacher for Special Needs’. I also have a freebie that I created specifically for young children with ASD at my TpT store. If you’ll click on TpT, it will take you directly to the item. It helps teach them to count from 1-10. Thank you for reading my post!

Thank you so much, Tasha, for this insightful post and for sharing such practical ideas that we can use!  Please make sure stop by Tasha's blog and show her some love!

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