The number of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the world is rising.
If your child is diagnosed with ASD, the information below can help you better understand autism and make a difference in the life of your child.
Today, approximately one in every 200 (0.5%) world children is diagnosed with ASD. This number is higher in North America. It is very important to understand how family and friends can interact with, and support, autistic children.
The term ASD is currently used to cover the whole spectrum of disorders including autism, Asperger's syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD).
Children with ASD typically have delays in communication and language development, social interactions, and behaviour. Usually one area of development is significantly more delayed than the other two. It is important to understand that each child with ASD presents very unique combinations of the typical characteristics. Strategies that work for one will not work for another. This makes teaching them challenging. Therefore, (as is advisable with any child, regardless of disabilities or challenges), each child must be considered individually to accommodate their unique needs.
Currently, children displaying at least 50 per cent or more of the symptoms or characteristics listed in each of the three categories, are diagnosed with autism. Asperger’s Syndrome is usually more common than autism, and does not involve the same language based delays as autism. Children with Asperger’s more often are having difficulty with social interactions, cues and moderating their own behaviour.
To support a child with ASD it is very important to understand child's strengths and weaknesses. It is important to understand a variety of strategies that are usually successful in supporting children with ASD and build resources to call upon, when the current strategy stops producing results. A support network is essential for building strategies.
Key strategies for children with ASD include (but are not limited to!) the following:
- Highly structured environment with predictable routines;
- Post schedules complete with graphic representations and colour coding as much as possible;
- Model appropriate behaviour and encourage children to copy modelled language;
- Model appropriate social interactions and encourage children to copy modelled behavior;
- Expose children with ASD to “normal” social interactions and behaviours by integrating them into larger group settings with other children as much as possible;
- Develop consistent strategies for the entire team of teachers and support workers to use with an your child by collaborating with teachers and support workers;
- Develop a network of support in friends, family members and parents of other children with ASD. You can gain valuable insight by talking about what is working or not working;
- Visit current research on ASD regularly — you might come across something that can work for your child. As mentioned, each child is unique and each child responds differently to different strategies and treatments.