Special needs consultant (and mom!) describes the early signs of autism, along with some tips to support a child with autism.
Do you have questions about your child’s developmental progress? Perhaps you have noticed some delays, but you want to know if your concerns are valid. Learn more about signs to watch for a child who has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Signs your child may have Autism
According to the American Psychiatric Association, “autism spectrum disorder is characterized by persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, including deficits in social reciprocity, nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, and skills in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships.”
This list is intended for educational purposes and not as a diagnosis for your child. Making an autism diagnosis is difficult. Always consult with a professional if you have questions about your child’s health, behaviors, or delays.
There are some early indicators of autism that appear as soon as 12 months old.
A toddler/child with autism will generally:
- Seem to tune out sounds or voices around them
- Play in limited ways (often not as the toy is intended to be played)
- Use jargon or made up words instead of common words
- Echo words, but not in a meaningful communicative manner
- Have a strong reaction to loud sounds
- Have difficulty with communication
- Make poor eye contact
- Be more engaged with objects than with people
- Have a small repertoire of words
- Have poor social skills
- Not be consistent about responding to their name
When it comes to treatment of autism, early intervention is key. If you have any doubts about your child’s development, raise the question to his pediatrician. The earlier the diagnosis is received, the better. This way, you can get on top of the therapies they will need.
Parents of children diagnosed with autism make the biggest impact regarding treatment for their child. Since children need consistent, repetitive models, parents have a great advantage over therapists in that they are with their children for the better part of the day, especially as toddlers.
Adapting a learning program to suit your child’s needs
Children diagnosed with autism require much support. In many ways, they need to be taught how to learn. Repetition along with other modifications to a daily routine is important for their success.
Here are some suggested methods for adapting a learning program of choice to help a child with autism thrive:
- Minimize distractions
- Work close to the child
- Use visual cues in addition to auditory cues
- Break tasks into small steps (using visual cues)
- Give short instructions (not too wordy)
- Set up a solid routine for each task and repeat it in the same way each time
Talking to your child’s caregivers and teachers about learning needs
It’s important to keep the lines of communication open with your child’s caregivers and educators especially since your child may have difficulty expressing themselves. Set up a communication notebook where you can receive daily insights into what went on with your child while they are out of your care.
Don’t expect a play-by-play as this is unrealistic for anyone to provide. However, do ask for a short sentence about successes and another about a difficulty they may have had that day. Establish a good relationship between daycare/school and home to make sure your child gets the help they are entitled to.
Teaching your child ways to communicate his needs to adults and peers
It may be difficult for a child diagnosed with autism to inform others about their needs. As parents, you can teach the staff methods of communication you are already using with your child. Some children use American Sign Language (ASL), others use a Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). Some use technology. No matter the method, encourage your child to express themselves through it when making choices or when asking for something they need. Be sure you have thoroughly shared the system that works best for your child to maintain consistency even when you are not around.
Finding a learning program to suit your child’s needs
Consider these resources for children with special needs:
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is proven to have the highest rate of success in treating Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The best way to learn about ABA is to listen to highly trained professionals who have extensive experience and knowledge of the principles and methods of Applied Behavior Analysis. This comprehensive 9-part training program covers topics about the implementation of ABA methods.
Disguised as a treasure hunt, this multi-award winning children’s literacy game gets kids physically active by reading clues to find a hidden surprise. There’s even a Picture Helper poster to look up words when kids get stuck. Soon, your child will be reading without even realizing it!
The uKloo Early Reader has been recognized and awarded for excellence in educational play for special needs children. uKloo is a physically active game that offers adaptability to each child’s learning style and needs. Game play reinforces sight reading and problem solving skills as it helps to build the child’s confidence and independence.
This whimsical kit is a wonderful, hands-on experiment which focuses on fine-motor skill-building, problem solving, and experimenting with sound. The kit is great for children of all ages 4 and above, and is an especially great options for helping your child develop fine motor skills when they’re of a pre-handwriting age. Older explorers will enjoy testing different sound materials and experimenting with volume, while developing concentration and focus.
About the All-Star Blogger
Gabriella Volpe is a homeschooling mom of a child with special needs, a certified teacher and the homeschool consultant for families of children with special needs. She knows first-hand what it means to struggle with educational planning for a child who does not fit the system and is limited by resources and products intended for children without disabilities. She helps parents find ways to adapt and modify the curriculum so they don’t have to spend hours figuring it out on their own. She also helps after-schooling families of children with special needs navigate their way around the homework hours. You can find her at www.GabriellaVolpe.com
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