Autism is a condition that affects the way a child relates to their environment and other people. Learning how to care for a child with autism, and knowing where to get help, can make things easier for parents and carers, and most of all for the child.
What is autism?
Children with autism have a disability that affects the brain. For some children, that disability is mild. For others, it is severe.
Children with autism are still children, and might have many abilities and interests that are unaffected by autism.
But many children with autism have problems with:
- social interaction
- repetitive activities or restricted interests
- dealing with sensory input.
These problems are usually present from birth but become more apparent in the first three years of life and continue throughout adulthood. People don’t know what causes autism but research suggests that genes play a strong part.
Features of autism
You might wonder about autism in your young child if they:
- are not being interested in other children
- are slow to speak
- don’t wave or clap when others would
- avoid eye contact
- do the same thing over and over, like rocking, lining up objects or flapping arms
- like routines and get upset when things change.
Learn more about child development. Visit the health direct website for more information on autism.
What to do if your child is diagnosed with autism
First, remember that all children with autism are different, in the way that all adults with heart disease are different. A commonly used catch-phrase is that if you have seen one child with autism, you have seen one child with autism.
If your doctor thinks your child might have autism, they may refer you to a paediatrician (a doctor who specialises in children) so you can get more information and get some help. The paediatrician will do a series of tests. If your child is diagnosed with autism they will advise you about early intervention therapies and services that might help your child.
Autism can have a big impact on you, other children, and family life. It’s important that you work with health and disability professionals to reduce these impacts, and that they are willing to work with you. You need an effective management and treatment plan that works for everyone.
How to care for a child with autism
Caring for a child with autism can be challenging. Children with autism often find it hard to understand simple instructions and social behaviour.
Particular treatments include:
- speech and language therapy: to help your child communicate better
- occupational therapy: to help them deal with everyday activities
- psychological therapies: to help with social skills, emotions, and stress