By Roger Heilos, President of Oralflo Technologies
“Your child has autism.”
These are the words that no parent wants to hear, and yet over 58 million parents all over the world have heard them.
In a world where everything is so fast-paced, parents of newly diagnosed children with autism are told to get their children help immediately. Research shows that early intensive intervention is the key to helping children with autism.
And just like that, parents are off and running-searching to find the right treatments for their child, looking for ways to get subsidized for services, and readjusting their entire lifestyles to meet their child’s needs.
In the meantime, there is very little time to take a breath and actually process the diagnosis. As a result, many parents find themselves feeling overwhelmed and overwrought, not fully understanding or acknowledging the emotions surrounding their child’s diagnosis.
Autism is often the silent disorder, often going unrecognized for several years. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention three hundred thousand children suffer from autism. The CDC reported that 5.7 children out of every thousand – one in 175 – have the problem. And the total may be higher because many doctors do not recognize the early warning signs and make a diagnosis when the child is already in school.
Autism is a developmental disability that affects a person’s verbal & non-verbal communication, understanding of language, and socialization with peers. Some or all of the following characteristics may be observed in mild to severe forms:
- Communication problems (e.g., using and understanding language);
- Difficulty relating to people, objects, and events;
- Unusual play with toys and other objects;
- Difficulty with changes in routine or familiar surroundings; and
- Repetitive body movements or behavior patterns.
Children with autism vary widely in abilities, intelligence, and behaviors. Some children do not speak; others have language that often includes repeated phrases or conversations. Children with more advanced language skills tend to use a small range of topics and have difficulty with abstract concepts. Repetitive play skills, a limited range of interests, and impaired social skills are generally evident as well. Unusual responses to sensory information-for example, loud noises, lights, certain textures of food or fabrics-are also common.
Autism is a behavioral disorder, NOT an illness or disease. It typically appears by age three and is a lifelong condition. There is no known cure. Although autism affects the functions of the brain, the specific cause is not known.
Researchers generally believe there is a genetic factor – autism does run in families – but there may be more at work as well. Some advocacy groups believe certain preservatives in childhood vaccines may play a role, and the issue has become highly controversial.
Parents whose children are diagnosed with autism often go through a great deal of confusion and a high level of stress. Raising a child with autism can be very demanding and parents often find themselves overwhelmed with the responsibility involved. Families often find themselves limited by what they can and cannot do and this can lead to feelings of frustration and even despair.
But what is so exciting today is that there’s new research, interventions and tools that improve the function and well-being of children with autism that didn’t exist just a few years ago.
And some of the techniques just take some thought prior to action:
1. USE ROUTINES.
Set up a crystal clear, daily structure before the day begins and decrease power struggles. Think structure, structure, structure.
Children, especially in the autism spectrum, need routine and structure.
That means arrange breakfast at the same time each day. Set a specific time period to do homework, to watch TV and schedule other activities routinely.
2. CHANGE ENVIRONMENT RATHER THAN THE CHILD.
Look around you. People with autism are especially sensitive to sensory conditions such as sound, lighting and physical touch.
If you have lights on a Christmas tree, bring them out early and have your child get used to them. Stick to one kind of fabric the child prefers.
3. BREAK TASKS INTO SMALL CHUNKS
If you overwhelm kids with autism, it’s no wonder they fight back. By breaking down the tasks into do-able items, you are ensuring their feeling of success and even raising their own self-esteem.
For example, when bathing, teach the child how to wash his or her hair in steps:
1) put the shampoo in your hand;
2) Put shampoo from hand onto hair;
4. FIND OTHER OPTIONS.
Sometimes in the best thought ideas don’t work when a child has autism. Simple tasks can become complex, so you need to find other ways to get things accomplished. Learn about assistive technology that can help your child.
Many kids with autism have difficulty swallowing pills. Use a special pill swallowing cup, which contains the pill and the child’s favorite drink to help him or her take the needed medications without hassle.
5. CHECK THE DIET.
The simple removal of dairy products or wheat products can make a difference.
In several studies, more than 49% of those who chose a dairy free treatment option found it to improve their child’s symptoms, while only 2% found it to worsen symptoms. Of those who were willing to take it a step further to a gluten free / casein free diet, a resounding 65% saw an
6. GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK.
After your child is diagnosed, helping him or her can often become the primary focus of your life. Many parents feel that every moment is taken up driving their child to doctor’s appointments and treatment sessions such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, and behavioral therapy. It’s too much for almost anyone. And your child can sense it too.
If you find yourself in the position where you are feeling consumed by your child’s disorder but feel too guilty to take breaks, then keep in mind the following: Allowing yourself to take breaks will help you to reenergize and take control of your life. Taking care of yourself will help you be a better
parent to your child with autism.
About the author:
Roger Heilos, president and founder of Oralflo Technologies (www.oralflo.com) was inspired to create a product that can make pill swallowing easier after witnessing the difficulty his own family had in doing so. After two and a half years of extensive research and development, in 2003, the Oralflo Pill Swallowing Cup was introduced.
A medical products design engineer with an impressive record of innovative contributions to business operations and profits, Heilos’ product has already helped to simplify the process of pill-swallowing for thousands of people.
2014 Oralflo Technologies