Autism: What is it and how to treat it

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects brain development. Autism makes social interaction, communicating with words and body language difficult. No two children with autism are the same. One child may not be able to speak properly, and the other may find it hard to learn in school. While children with autism have developmental problems, they can be “geniuses” in art, math and music.

Millions of children around the world have autism, and it is four times more common in boys than girls. Autism is caused by genetics, a lack of prenatal vitamins in a mother’s diet, and advanced age of parents at time of conception. Most children grow up having average to above average intelligence, and can live independently. But some need a caretaker for their entire lives.

Ways to help children with autism

Children with autism may appear to be in their “own world” and not care about you or what is around them. But autistic children are aware. Autism causes the body’s senses to be out of control. What smells delicious to you might stink for someone with autism. You might love the sound of pianos and violins, but it can hurt those with autism. Lights can hurt the eyes, so some children prefer the dark.

Get their attention; speak slowly and softly

If you are talking to an autistic chid, they may not understand what you are saying. So it is good to walk over to them, get their attention, look into their eyes, and speak to them slowly and kindly. This will help an autistic child understand you are talking to them and know what you want them to do.

Speak simply

Children with autism are confused by idioms like, “Hold your horses!” or “It’s raining cats and dogs.” Autistic people understand language literally (by definition of each word). So when you speak to them, they might look for horses to hold or imagine cats and dogs falling from the sky. Instead, speak simply. Say: “Stop running!” or “It’s raining hard.”

Listen and watch

People with autism communicate in different ways. Many times, they don’t know how to communicate what they feel. They might feel hungry, thirsty, scared or angry, but don’t know how to tell you. But their body language will show it. Look for signs of their emotions.

Show, don’t tell

Autistic brains understand more from what they see, than from what they hear. To communicate with an autistic child, draw a picture. Draw a map. Autistic brains remember what they see for a very long time.

Be patient, give love, then give more patience and love

It can be frustrating and hard to play with an autistic child. But they are still children, and it’s not their fault they can’t understand you. You might get angry because they ignore you or don’t understand what you want them to do. Be patient. Show them again, and again, and again. If an autistic child does something wrong, tell them it’s okay and love them for trying. If they don’t understand how to do something your way, try a different way. See past what the child cannot do, to see what they can do. A child may not be good at catching a ball with their hands, but they may be great at kicking a ball. Another child might be very bad at playing the piano, but they could be a genius at drums or guitar. 

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