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Living with autism

By The Assam Tribune
Living with autism
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MIND MIRROR - Dr. Jayanta Das

The author is a senior consultant psychiatrist. Psychiatrist Dr. Anweshak Das and clinical psychologist Jayashree Das also contribute. E-mail your queries to [email protected]

Pet therapy or music and dance therapy can help children with autism.

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Q: My nine-year-old son has been diagnosed with autism, intellectual disability and ADHD. It is very difficult to control him. Please suggest some ways to control his unruly behaviour. Can he complete his studies? Are medications necessary at such a young age?

– A concerned parent

Ans: Most of the times children with autism have stereotypic behaviour; they can be unruly and may throw temper tantrums. Many a time, autism is also associated with intellectual disability. When a child with autism has low intelligence, the behavioural problems may increase. Parents face enormous stress in caring for their affected child. You can follow these simple behavioural modification techniques:

* Disregarding: Ignoring the behaviour (as if it is not occurring at all) but giving the attention to the child.

* Redirecting: Catching the child just as an odd behaviour is beginning and guiding the child towards an appropriate behaviour.

* Limit-setting: Clearly communicating what are acceptable and unacceptable behaviours to the child and enforcing these.

* Blocking: Preventing the behaviour from being completed (example - aggression).

* Noticing and rewarding the child when he or she shows desirable behaviour or when undesirable behaviour is absent (catching the child being good and praising).

Look at abilities rather than deficits in the child (what the child is able to do and what can be taught, rather than what he or she is not able to do). Notice successes and praise them, however small these may be. Try to learn the techniques of training and practise them. Remember that they are slow in learning but they can still be taught with patience, persistence, and the correct approach. Find out about services that are available and utilise them. There is no need to feel ashamed about having a retarded child. There is no need to blame oneself or other family members for the child’s condition. Do not overprotect the child; encourage them as far as possible to stand on their own feet. Make contact with other parents and join parent organisations for mutual support. Keep your normal life intact, and work together as a family to solve problems.

On many occasions, medicines may also be required for the management of the child. Medication, in fact, can improve their attention span, bring down behavioural problems, decrease hyperactivity, etc.

Regarding completion of studies or doing higher studies, it depends on the severity of intellectual disability. There are many autistic children who do very good in academics and go for higher studies. Vocation and occupational training in other areas can be given to them if some children are not able to do well in academics.

Apart from medication, there are alternative or complementary therapies that are also tried nowadays. Pet therapy is beneficial and has found to have positive effects with an autistic child. Children with autism generally lack basic social skills because of which they have problems connecting with peers. Bonding with pets seems easier for them and being around pets or having a structured contact with animals can be a great addition to traditional treatment. Music and dance therapy can also help an autistic child. Listening to a song, singing a song or playing a musical instrument can help enormously. In fact, many children with autism are better in dance and music than other aspects of life. These are a few therapies you can try for your child.

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