Stress is not unfamiliar when it comes to parenting, as all parents understand upon waking up to the cries of the baby in the middle of the night for the first time. As per the assumptions, this even becomes a capital “STRESS” when it comes to taking care of the needs of children with autism. Assumption or not, one simple truth persists.
Medically speaking, severe autism is not a definite diagnosis. Severe autism is mainly used to describe an individual’s need and functioning level. Sometimes referred to as classic autism or profound autism, severe autism efficiently illustrates autistic people who possess the most prominent symptoms.
Elaborating Severe Autism
Currently, the diagnostic manual (DSM-5) brought about the three categories of autism mainly focusing on the level and requirement of support. Level 3, under the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), can be labeled as severe autism that demands a considerable amount of support which would technically be a 24/7 kind of fostering and supervising.
“Different people with autism–including those diagnosed with Asperger’s or PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disability)–can have very different symptoms in varying degrees of severity.” –Karla Helbert, LPC, E-RYT, C-IAYT
Severe autism is more demanding and debilitating compared to other levels of autism due to the following reasons:
Individuals who are suffering from severe autism have all similar issues like that of the two spectrums, but a higher, much-complicated
Both of the reasons stated above creates a virtually tricky set-up for people struggling with severe autism and their families to function efficiently in normal settings that would range from going to schools, malls, parks, or even the doctor’s office.
Behavioral Difficulties Affecting Individuals With Severe Autism
Research suggests that people who have severe autism usually present intense behaviors that are commonly caused by sensory overload, physical pain, or frustration. Due to these impromptu reactions, individuals who have severe autism may have difficulties with verbally communicating their needs, that would result in their caregivers or other people having a negative perception of their behaviors.
Unmanaged or unaddressed behaviors usually conveyed by people with severe autism can become destructive which makes even the closest members of the family feel threatened by the lack of control for such abrupt and dangerous behaviors.
What are the typical behavioral challenges that are exhibited by people with severe autism?
“People with ASD can have problems controlling their aggression and says it is not uncommon for these clients, sometimes including adults, to pull her hair or scratch her arms.” Stephanie Smigiel, LPC said. Usually perceived as anti-social behavior, aggression committed by people with severe autism might be relatively uncommon but is undoubtedly an alarming symptom. Aggressive practices are not limited to kicking, hitting, or biting other people. People with severe autism may also manifest inappropriate acts like door banging, fecal smearing, which necessitates an effective and immediate response.
Self-injury is an act that is common for all levels of ASD; however extreme behaviors like head-banging due to frustration or anger, or consuming non-edible items, are more likely displayed by those who have severe autism.
Another distinct characteristic of people with severe autism that renders much difficulty in dealing with is straying or wandering around for no apparent reason. Compared to high-functioning autistic people, severely autistic individuals don’t have the appropriate tools to eloquently communicate with responders, posing a more precarious situation for the person. Due to the likelihood of straying happening, the majority of families with a member who has severe autism equip the person with alarms, personalized locks, and tools for proper identification to ensure their safety.
“From my perspective, it’s one of the hardest things to deal with because, particularly if they’ve got young children — they’re struggling, they’re really struggling with behaviours.” Jo White, a therapist said. While there are currently no specific treatments that can relieve someone of his or her condition, there is a wide variety of options aimed at addressing particular symptoms of the disorder. If your children are showing signs of autism and you would want to diagnose them adequately, consulting a medical professional is advised.
The causes of autism are still not fully understood, but experts generally agree that environmental factors play a role. While genetics influence the chances of developing autism, exposure to certain chemicals early in life may also contribute towards this developmental disorder.
Given that scientists need to do more research on what causes autism, the exact link between certain chemicals and autism is still unclear. However, reducing your child’s exposure to these chemicals is always recommended. These substances are generally toxic to the nervous system and other parts of the body. By taking some simple steps, you can drastically reduce the amounts of these toxins that you and your family receive.
Many food items, such as produce, may contain significant amounts of pesticides on their surfaces. The agriculture industry uses pesticides to avoid crop damage from insects and other animals, preventing product losses. Many of these chemicals are designed to linger so that doses don’t need to be applied as often. Unfortunately, this design also allows these chemicals to resist degradation from natural processes, allowing them to travel far and wide.
Unborn children and babies are susceptible to the neurotoxic effects of pesticides. Left unabated, exposure can lead to neurological defects and poor development. A study found that pregnant women living within 2 kilometers from a sprayed field were up to 16% more likely to have a child with autism.
Fortunately, you can reduce pesticide exposure by rinsing your vegetables thoroughly with clean water. Better yet, you can buy from organic vendors and other sources that do not use pesticides.
Mercury and lead are potent agents that can harm brain cells. The body mistakes them as essential minerals like calcium. Hence, they can go inside vital organs like the brain, where they proceed to wreak havoc. Effects include poor language development and impaired emotion regulation, which are hallmarks of autism.
Mercury tends to bioaccumulate in animals such as fish because their organs can’t remove them effectively. When we eat contaminated fish, mercury can slowly build up inside our bodies and reach dangerous levels.
Lead was once a common ingredient of paints, so old buildings tend to have large amounts of this metal. As the paint flakes off and disintegrates into dust, the particles can be inhaled or ingested by young children.
To avoid exposure, it’s a good idea to limit the consumption of high-risk fish such as shark or tuna. You should also have old paints replaced or move out of aging residences.
Chemicals such as bisphenol A and phthalates are used to modify the properties of plastics, making them more durable and easy to manufacture. However, these substances can block the function of naturally occurring hormones in the body. Their most common effects include abnormalities in reproductive development, but they may also be significant in the development of autism.
To reduce exposure, check the type of plastic that you use around your children. If they have recycling codes 3, 4, or 7, you should probably stay away from them. Better yet, use products that guarantee to be free of phthalates and bisphenol A. Reducing consumption of packaged and processed food is also a good idea.
By being wary of these environmental hazards, you may better prevent your child from developing autism. What’s sure is that your child will have a healthier life.
Fostering an autistic child is both challenging and rewarding.
Honestly, there is no secret recipe or special powers required to be successful in raising a child who falls on the autism spectrum. However, there is a specific way to help manage the symptoms, provide further understanding, and accumulate appropriate skills to navigate around the challenging world of autistic childcare, and it’s called counseling.
It’s normal for children to have nightmares once in a while. However, for kids who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), communication difficulties, and sensory dysfunction distress the child more from all these night terrors. Studies state that around 60% of children with ASD have trouble sleeping due to this problem.
While you cannot eliminate nightmares as a parent, you can help your child cope with the stress they experience.
Understand The Causes Of Nightmares
Uncovering the primary causes of nightmares of those with ASD has not yet been successful. However, experts have pinpointed several factors which might increase the risk of experiencing these situations. Some of these include the following:
Scary movies, TV shows, or stories
Irregular sleep routine or deprivation of sleep
Significant and sudden changes at home or school
Medications for ASD
“Autism tends to shine a bright light on whatever issues were already there.” Janeen Herskovitz, MA, LMHC said. As a parent, you need to have an idea of what contributes to your child’s night terrors. Once you have determined what these are, create a plan on how you can lower your child’s exposure to these problems.
Set A Proper Stage For Sleeping
Staci Lee Schnell, MS, CS, LMFT once said, “Sleep helps your brain work properly. While you’re sleeping, your brain processes complex stimuli.” Therefore, you should establish a pre-sleeping routine for your child to follow. First, set a regular timeslot for them to lie on their bed. Make sure that they have at least 10 hours of sleep every day. Explain to them that those who sleep late are more likely to experience nightmares. Second, impose a rule that all electronic gadgets should be turned off at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Do this is to ensure that they don’t produce a sleep-inducing hormone called melatonin.
Lastly, prepare a calming activity for them to help relax their mind and body. You may opt to play a board game, read a story, go outside to look at the stars, or take a bath.
Conquer The Darkness
There are two ways for your child to conquer darkness. The first strategy is to dash your child’s room with a small amount of light. You can either install a dimmer in the bedroom or turn on the nightlights until he or she falls asleep. You can also let your child keep his or her favorite toy or blanket to help him, or her settle down.
Seek Outside Help
It is also advisable for you to seek outside help, primarily if these night terrors are disrupting your child’s waking life. The best form of therapy for those with ASD is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). In here, the therapist will teach techniques on how the child can transform these scary thoughts into positive images. The therapist will also guide him or her in ways to address the anxiety brought about by these nightmares.
“Autism is a result of neurological differences in the structure of the brain that distinguish it from what we call the neurotypical brain. It is not mental illness or a personality disorder.” Sarah Swenson, MA, LMHC said. So to find the best therapist for your child, you may opt to ask the help of your pediatrician or check in with an ASD local support group for parents.
While we cannot prevent night terrors from happening, there are various ways for parents to provide comfort to children to reduce the frequency of nightmares. You only have to test all of these techniques and find the best ones which work for your child.
Almost everyone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is advised to take speech therapy. The reason for this is that many children with ASD have compromised or limited speech and have a hard time forming words and sentences. At the same time, they also confront major non-verbal communication problems such as maintaining eye contact and playing with other people. For these reasons, speech therapy has many benefits for children with autism.
“Traditionally, intervention for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has focused upon reducing interfering behavior and teaching language, academic and self-help skills.” –Marlene Driscoll, MA, LMFT
Develops The Ability To Express Their Needs
These children sometimes have a hard time expressing both their want and needs. Sometimes, they do not learn spoken language bit by bit; instead, they do it in “chunks.” For example, they repeat these long chunks of sentences from their favorite TV shows and stories without fully understanding what these mean. Experts call this disorder echolalia.
With the help of speech therapy, they learn how to communicate verbally and non-verbally with other people and exchange ideas with their peers properly. It is crucial in building relationships not only in the comforts of their home but also outside of it.
Some children with ASD have a difficult time applying correct grammar even if it’s taught both in school and at home. The most common grammar mistake they do is referring to themselves in the third person. For example, instead of saying, “I want to eat cereals,” they’ll say, “John wants cereals.” With this in mind, speech therapists target this skill and guide them into correcting these grammar mistakes.
Helps Them Understand What Others Say To Them
One of the difficulties of having ASD is the inability to comprehend both verbal and nonverbal communication that other people try to tell you. Speech therapy teaches them to recognize cues such as facial expressions and body languages and translate these to understandable messages. Speech therapy also gives them the capability to initiate individual and group communication without having to wait for others to do so.
“It is painful and difficult to identify, because so many neurotypical partners see these as problems existing within in themselves, rather than as their reactions to confusion, to feeling systematically ignored, or to feeling not heard for many years.” –Sarah Swenson, MA, LMHC
Assists Their Articulation Skills
Aside from improving their comprehension, speech therapy also targets the improvement of the children’s articulation skills. Articulation refers to the physical movement of the lips, palate, tongue, and jaw. All of these parts should be able to coordinate correctly to produce speech sounds.
However, it is challenging to work these parts together in the presence of ASD. Therefore, speech therapists guide the child to produce sound patterns or speech sounds to improve his or her overall speech intelligibility.
Addresses Speech Fluency
Children with ASD experience various communication disorders like interjections, prolongations, and repetitions. Displaying these behaviors tends to lower their self-confidence. With the help of speech therapy for autism, the patients learn strategies on how to increase their speech fluency and control their stutters.
“Often, kids, teens and adults on the spectrum spend a lot of time trying to be “normal”, fighting sensory overload and overwhelm, fending off personal quirks, and trying so hard to “fit in”,socially and otherwise.” Karla Helbert, LPC, E-RYT, C-IAYT said. Just like other medical diagnoses, the earlier you detect and treat speech problems, the higher the chances of addressing them thoroughly. Usually, children utter their first words around their 18th month and form basic phrases and sentences on their 24th month. It means that autism is detectable at the age of 3. Therefore, it is recommended to start therapy early for it to be more beneficial and useful for children with autism.
Scientists and experts say that the most critical phase of child development is the first three years of their lives. During this time, the brain is developing rapidly, and it is highly recommended to help the kids learn through educational but fun activities.
Not only does this stage indicate a child’s development, but this is also where they first experience interacting with their peers. It’s the first time they experience how to follow instructions and try different activities which will help hone their skills.
Caring For Children With Special Needs
Although this stage is all about helping our children’s brain development, the situation is quite different for children with special needs. For example, children with autism and other disorders can be quite challenging to handle. With a different circumstance at hand, it is crucial to know the most appropriate methods to keep the child engaged without overworking their mind.
Teaching children with special needs is not the same as an abled toddler. There has to be more patience, understanding, and, most of all, compassion. When caring for children with special needs in their developmental stage, it is essential to introduce activities and learning games which can stimulate their minds without confusing them.
Fun Activities To Do With Them
Children with special needs can be a bit more sensitive than other children. It is crucial to ensure that the learning environment of the child facilitates learning at an optimum level. So that they can understand you better, limit distracting things in the classroom, simplify instructions, and take advantage of multi-sensory techniques.
“Autism is a complex developmental disability that causes difficulties in many areas, with varying degrees of severity, most notably with social interaction and communication.” says Karla Helbert, LPC, E-RYT, C-IAYT. So to help you create a learning space for children with special needs, here are some fun activities which you can do with them.
1. Sensory Activities
Activities which stimulate a child’s five senses are suitable for children with special needs. By introducing different toys or activities related to visual learning, feeling, or auditory association, the child’s sensory skills improve. Sensory activities include Guess What’s Inside, Jack In A Box, and Shape Blocks. In the long run, these simple games help with their self-discovery and psychological and emotional development.
One of the best ways to approach learning with children with special needs is through roleplaying. Giving them instructions on what to be, how to do it, and which scenario to reenact gives them a taste of the real world while still doing it in a fun manner. Through roleplaying, kids can “live out” a day in the life of anyone they wish, and this helps with their social abilities and development at an early stage.
3. Physical Fun
Another way to get children with special needs to learn actively is through physical activities. The physical exercises and games you do with them do not have to be grand. Simple routines, such as yoga, exercising, and dancing, can help them be more active and enthusiastic. Through these activities, they can also improve their gross motor skills and enhance their hand-foot coordination. “There are many examples of physical activity that range in levels of intensity from light to vigorous. Maintaining your physical health can include yoga, bike riding, jumping rope, engaging in sports, running, walking, jogging, skiing, dancing, tennis, and gardening.” Marjie L. Roddick, MA, NCC, LMHC, said.
There are more activities you can do with children with special needs other than the three we mentioned above. You can try experimenting as long as it educates them, helps them develop, and keeps them safe from harm.
Autism is a common mental condition in the US. Experts like therapists and psychologists view the mental illness as something that significantly affects a person’s development. Its signs and symptoms are the avoidance of eye contact, delayed speech, difficulty understanding other people’s emotions, and unexpected reactions with sounds, sight, and smell. But one of the most unnoticed symptoms is an individual’s strange attachment to an object. It may not sound an issue for some, but there is a psychological explanation as to why it is becoming a determining factor.
An individual with an autism spectrum disorder experiences an object attachment. As explained by John Strang, Psy.D. “Young people with autism are very good at “getting stuck” and being less flexible.” However, no one seems to get bothered by it. Perhaps it is because people look at it is as something familiar for most individuals without even having a mental illness. But the way autistic people feel about a particular possession is beyond sentimental perspective. Yes, it is not comparable to a life and death situation. But it is something that affects someone’s way of living. Like for example, if an autistic person tends to have a teddy bear, he will most likely keep it close to him all the time. It will become more of a comforting object. Honestly, you can expect it to be an individual’s possession that certainly lasts for more than a couple of years.
Autistic’s Object Attachment
An autistic’s object attachment is not at all harmful. However, it somehow depicts obsession. That is because the comfort that the individual feels whenever he is with the object gets channeled in it. The person feels an emotional connection that nobody can explain.
In some cases, it becomes helpful because it can change an individual’s mood in an instant. Like for example, if children are scared and lonely, they feel safe around their dolls and toys. However, the situation is not different when we talk about the loss of a valued possession. In some unfortunate cases, the loss of that particular item causes severe anxiety and depression to an individual because he feels lost without it. There are instances that he won’t eat, talk, and get out of bed without the proof of his possessions existence. It is as if the whole world only revolves around that particular item. With that, an autistic person finds it hard to recover from the emotional damage that nobody seems to understand.
What Autistic People Feel
Object attachment affects an autistic individual in different ways. “People with ASD can have problems controlling their aggression and says it is not uncommon for these clients, sometimes including adults, to pull her hair or scratch her arms.” Stephanie Smigiel, LPC said. There is a tendency the person gets to feel uncomfortable with his surroundings too. Sometimes he can’t seem to concentrate without his stuff by his side. There are even cases where an autistic feel upset and angry when someone is trying to use his precious belonging or want to look at it. Sometimes, there is a point where an autistic individual become violent, especially if their valued possession gets taken without permission. That is because the thought of it getting broken and damaged is scarier than the idea of losing it.
Honestly, the emotional dilemma is hard to put into words. And sometimes, even if it gets fixed by someone, an autistic person does not immediately feel okay. That is because he thinks that the fixed item will never be the same. The thought of it getting broken will never leave an autistic person’s head, and he will entirely think about it over and over. Another example of a scenario where people are so insensitive about an autistic’s emotional and mental state is when he is playing with Lego. Yes, those are toys that are meant to be broken down into pieces. However, an autistic finds himself feeling troubled about his valued possession getting destroyed. And even though it is fixable, the idea that it gets ruined will stick and mess with his mind.
There is no concrete diagnosis of object attachment in autism spectrum disorder. “Autism is a result of neurological differences in the structure of the brain that distinguish it from what we call the neurotypical brain. It is not mental illness or a personality disorder.” Sarah Swenson, MA, LMHC explains. However, a lot of individuals with the same mental condition share the same trait. Yes, there are criteria for determining the signs and symptoms of autism. But some of the unnoticed categorical attributes somehow falls in a mild end that goes up to severe cases. Unfortunately, this is where the confusion comes in.
There is no particular description as to where and where an autistic individual would flip when someone else is trying to get a hold of his possession. But one thing is for sure. It is hard for an autistic to try and keep things as controlled as possible. That is because the amount of psychological distress that it gives, even if it’s a little thing, can make an emotional and mental recovery impossible.