Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that typically appears in the first two years of life. It has an impact on communication and social skills, but each case of ASD is different and the symptoms vary in their severity. Early intervention – the process of identifying ASD and treating it at the earliest opportunity – is important for children with autism, as it leads to better quality of life. As a parent/guardian/teacher,you need to be on the lookout for warning signs.
YOU’LL NEED TO
1) Gather knowledge on developmental milestones
2) Pay attention to your child’s behaviour
3) See a doctor if your child has missed any developmental milestones or is exhibiting strange or unusual ways for a child his or her age.
If your child exhibits behaviours associated with autism, don’t jump to the conclusion that he/she has the disorder.Observe the child carefully and bring your concerns to a doctor.The doctor will observe your child and ask you questions about his/her behavior and medical history. The most important thing is not to wait. Don’t wait to see a doctor because you think your child will grow out of the behaviours you’re seeing or because a family member discourages you from doing so. Early intervention is the best course of action.
Here are some classic red flags:
– Lack of a happy expression or smile
– Delay in babbling and cooing
– Unresponsive to name
– Lack of gesturing
– Disinterest in your attention
– Delayed motor development
– Poor eye contact
– Doesn’t like to be held or cuddled
– Delayed speech
– Engaging in repetitive behaviour
– Unusual body movements/postures
– Lack of social interaction – disinterest in playing with other children
Because every case of autism spectrum disorder is different, a child with ASD will need a therapy or educational plan that is designed to meet his/her precise needs. There are many therapies, strategies and techniques that can be used to help a child with ASD overcome the challenges of the disorder, and only a qualified clinical professional can identify the right intervention plan for a child. Children with mild symptoms can function well in an inclusive school setting and grow up to be successful, independent adults if given the right support from an early age. Even children with moderate symptoms can be integrated into a regular classroom, with the right support. Children whose symptoms are more severe will need a different approach, but they can also make a lot of progress over time if given consistent support from a team of clinicians and family members.
Integrating children with mild to moderate symptoms requires, among other things, focused attention for the development of their communication and social skills. Integrated and structured playgroups can help teach social skills and positive social behaviour to neurotypical children and children with ASD. They are also useful in sensitizing neurotypical children to the challenges faced by their peers with special needs. An integrated playgroup consists of a small group of children who play and interact together on a regular basis under the guidance of a professional play guide who monitors the playgroups, sets up structure, repeats themes, and develops activities around the children’s interests.
Often times, parents are concerned that their child with ASD may be bullied in a mainstream school. However, inclusive schools strive to offer an environment that is accepting of all children, regardless of their special needs, sexual orientation or socio-economic background, so they are quick to stop bullying if it occurs.
Special needs students in inclusive set-ups typically have more friends and higher levels of social support. Typically-developing children learn to support their special needs classmates, and this has a ripple effect in their communities, leading to greater levels of awareness
The teacher may be concerned that having an autistic student in the classroom would take away from the academic experience of other children. However, many services and accommodations for autistic children can aid the entire class. For instance, an inclusive classroom tends to have a lower student-to-teacher ratio and that encourages greater student engagement. Additionally, various studies have found major social benefits, including increased acceptance of others, increased responsibility and realistic perceptions of peers. This acceptance and tolerance will benefit them throughout their life.
Autism spectrum disorder is associated with atypical behaviors that can affect the child in multiple ways. However, early intervention can be very helpful. If you observe some delays and discrepancies in your child’s cognitive and social development, discuss your concerns with a professional. Early diagnosis leads to early intervention and that is the most helpful way to improve your child’s behavior, social skills and overall development.