Autism is a genetic disorder that occurs in children. Autism develops differently in different children. Sometimes it is seen before 3 years of age and is present throughout the child’s life or the signs are not observed till 2 years or later, the child develops new skills and achieves milestones and then stops learning new skills. One of the key signs of autism is difficulty in accepting changes. This article will focus on what is autism, its signs, and how to make dealing with change easier for children as well as parents.
Autism is not a single disorder, rather it is a series of disorders on a spectrum. It is a childhood developmental disorder in which the child has problems communicating, very little range of interests, and repetitive behaviors.
The spectrum can include a child who has narrow interests and little social skills but normal communication skills to a child who has problems in social interaction, communication, and odd behavior. Children with autism also have problems dealing with change.
Signs of Autism
The child does not respond to his/her name being called sometimes or all the time.
He/she does not smile or make joyful expressions by 6 months
The child does not smile, make sounds or make other expressions when they see a familiar person by 9 months.
The child does not make any sounds by 12 months.
No use of gestures like pointing and reaching by 12 months.
The child does not speak his or her first words by the age of 1 and a half years.
No meaningful two-word phrases by the age of 2 years.
Common Changes for a Child With Autism
A key feature of Autism is resistance to change in routines. Here are some examples of the changes that might occur-
Leaving the house
When someone comes to visit at home.
Going to new places.
Going from one activity to another.
Changing the time or order of activities. For example- taking bath after dinner rather than before it.
Trying new foods or wearing new clothes
Changed teachers or activities at school.
Not being able to do certain scheduled activities. For eg- not being able to go to school because of the rain.
After talking about what kind of changes can be difficult for the child, let us discuss how can we help a child with autism in dealing with change.
How to Help a Child With Autism in Dealing With Change
Changes are never easy for a child with autism. But there are some things parents and teachers can do to make the child more comfortable. This can be done by preparing the child for a particular change. Many changes are planned and happen at a specific time. If the child knows of these in advance, dealing with changes will be easier for the child with autism.
Use the Method of Storytelling
Stories can be told easily and enjoyably which is interesting for the child. Using this method to tell the child what is going to happen and what all changes can he/she expect is a good way of giving a heads up. You could make up stories for almost any activity. For example, you can make up a story about how some people are coming to visit your house and use family photos to show who all would be coming and what all will happen when they arrive.
Set Timetables and Routines
Setting timetables for routines are a good way for the child to know what is coming up next. Timetables need not be limited to school but can be used at home when you are planning the day for your child. It can also help the child know of any changes that might occur in his or her daily routine. You can make use of pictures, words, or both to make the timetable. Pictures can be very engaging and useful as they can interestingly convey information.
Through the use of pictures, you can also show the child that his/her bath time is after his or her dinner tonight. This is useful to help the child with autism in dealing with changes.
Keep a Good Margin Between Two Activities
To make your child feel less stressed about changes, give him/her enough time to prepare for them. Give enough time margin so that the change does not spring a surprise for him or her.
Visits to New Places
Whenever you are planning to go to a place that is unfamiliar to the child, make sure that you acquaint the child with the place beforehand. This can be done by taking the child to that place before you have plans to go. Let him or her get familiar with the place and get a feel of how things would be at the time when you plan to come there with them.
Set a time
When you find your child becoming anxious in a new place or while doing a new thing, set a particular time. When you set a time, the child would know when it will be time to go do the things he or she would normally do at that time or go back home.
Start Small and Slow
While preparing the child for changes, it is best to start with smaller changes and gradually introduce the bigger changes when he or she is comfortable. For example, in preparing your child for bed, he might ask for his hour of reading stories with you. Instead of reading the whole chapter, you can read some portions and leave the rest for tomorrow.
Also, try to be slow while changing activities for the child. For example- when you are preparing a child with autism in dealing with changes, you can pick an activity they like and then proceed to the activity you want them to do. Reward the child with treats and praise when they cooperate with you. And keep practicing as the more the child practices, the better they feel when they experience the change.
Parents might find it challenging to prepare a child with autism in dealing with changes. You can follow the steps given in the article to make the change smoother for the child. If the problem in accepting changes persists, it is best to go to a mental health professional for expert advice. Teenagers with autism have to go through bodily changes, social changes as well as other changes in their surroundings. This can be even more difficult for the parents to handle. please enroll in our courses ‘Body Image Concerns‘ and ‘Coping With Bullying‘ for more on teenage transitions and how to deal with them.