There are a lot of stereotypes regarding autism.
You might picture someone with difficulty maintaining personal relationships.
Maybe you think autistic people are rude because they often have trouble maintaining eye contact.
As a parent, these perceptions can make receiving a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder for your child frightening.
But being autistic doesn’t mean your child won’t be able to live independently, hold a job, or maintain friendships.
But it does mean they may benefit from the services of a child autism spectrum therapist.
Seeking occupational therapy for kids on the autism spectrum can help them to practice social skills which might not come as easily as they do for others.
This in turn can help them to gain the skills which will help them live happier, more fulfilling lives.
Let’s take a closer look at autism spectrum disorder, the challenges which can accompany it, and how occupational therapy can help.
What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder.
It occurs because of differences in brain development.
The way autism presents from person to person can vary widely, and for this reason, the term “spectrum” is used.
Each autistic person will have varying strengths, weaknesses, and needs.
Some autistic children may be entirely nonverbal, while others may have no issues communicating at all.
Some autistic children may be quite social, while others may have a serious resistance to developing their social skills.
Just like allistic children (the opposite of autistic), everybody is different.
How To Tell If Your Child Is Autistic
Some of the common signs of autism spectrum disorder include:
- Repetition of physical behaviors
- Difficulty socializing with others
- Difficulty recognizing social cues
- Difficulty communicating their needs
- Sensory processing issues – unusual reactions to sights, sounds, and other senses
- Difficulty understanding the feelings of others
- Being avoidant of physical touch
- Being easily irritated when routines are disrupted
How Does Autism Affect Communication Skills?
Autism spectrum disorder primarily affects the way your child communicates with the world around them.
This includes you and other caregivers, teachers, and other children.
One key to communicating with autistic children is understanding how they perceive the world.
This can go a long way to helping facilitate better trust and communication.
Some of the ways autism can affect communication include:
- Difficulty processing multiple thoughts at once
- Having special interests and only wanting to talk about things they are interested in
- Difficulty understanding metaphors or sarcasm
- Not understanding non verbal communication, such as a smile to indicate you’re happy
- Being easily irritated by ambient sounds which aren’t noticeable to others
How Can You Improve Communication With Your Autistic Child?
There is no one right or wrong way to communicate with autistic people.
As the saying goes, “When you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person”.
Essentially, this means everyone with autism spectrum disorder is unique – just like the rest of us.
There are no “one size fits all” rules for communication with them.
Because of this, there is not one particular way to make communication with your autistic child better or easier.
There are, however, some things to keep in mind which can help make things smoother.
Let’s look at some tips:
1. Don’t Take Their Communication Style Personally
The difficulties autistic children have with communication is not a reflection on you as a parent or caregiver.
They’re instead, due to differences in their brains.
Autistic children often have difficulty controlling and expressing their emotions.
Additionally, they can often be blunt and to the point.
Blunt responses, trouble with emotions and other differences in communication are not meant to make you feel bad.
Never take these things a personal attack.
2. Reward Good Behavior, But Don’t Punish Bad Behavior
Most people don’t respond well to punishment.
This is especially true for autistic children.
Use consistent positive reinforcement to reward good behavior.
Rather than punish poor or attention getting behavior, do your best to ignore it when possible, or discuss it with your child.
3. Recognize And Respond To Their Needs
Processing information can sometimes take autistic children longer than their peers.
They may need you to slow down your conversation so they can follow along better.
Furthermore, you may need to alter your communication style.
This can mean using simple, straightforward language, and pause often to ensure they understand you.
It may also mean shutting off any devices that may be causing background noise, even if you don’t notice it yourself.
Fans, heating and air conditioning, air filters, and even ticking clocks can be distracting to autistic children.
4. Use Physical Activity To Help Communicate
Communication is more than just the words you use.
Gestures and other forms of physical communication can sometimes help with getting your point across.
Furthermore, autistic children often have limited attention spans.
Giving them the chance to burn off energy through active play can help them be in a better space to communicate with you.
5. Above All, Be Patient
Autistic children often need more time to process information than their neurotypical counterparts.
They may require information to be repeated, or for it to be stated in a different manner in order to fully process and understand things.
Remember this is not a reflection on you, as a parent.
Practicing patience will help you create a stronger relationship with your child.
How Can Occupational Therapy For Autistic Kids Help?
Currently, there is no known cure for autism, and it’s unlikely there will ever be one.
This is because it’s a difference in neurological development.
And many autistic people would argue they don’t want or need a cure.
According to the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), one of the largest autistic advocacy groups actually led by autistic people, any attempt to “cure” autism will do more harm than good.
It’s undeniable, however, that autism can make some elements of life more difficult.
So instead, ASAN recommends the focus be on therapies that can actually help autistic children to live better lives.
This includes things like pediatric physical therapy, speech therapy, and of course, occupational therapy.
In particular, social skills interventions can help address limitations for autistic children.
Let’s take a look at some of the different interventions your pediatric occupational therapist may suggest.
1. Social Stories
Social stories are brief stories written in simple language used to teach about concepts, events, or behavior.
They can also be used to help autistic children better handle changes in situation or routine.
2. Peer Mentoring
Peer mentoring can be done either in group or one on one settings.
It is often used alongside other types of therapies such as speech therapy.
This type of therapy allows people to work on practicing their social skills in informal settings, and to observe how others communicate.
Mentors can model how to interact socially, and help autistic children develop the confidence to participate in different situations.
The mentors also benefit, as they learn how to be more inclusive and empathetic towards autistic people.
3. Video Modeling
This method involves showing autistic children videos demonstrating social skills, and then having them practice what they see.
Videos can be of the child themselves, their peers, or examples drawn from movies and television shows.
This can help individuals learn how to interact, nonverbal communication, and other behaviors.
4. Social Skills Groups
These groups will have four or five children and can focus on topics such as:
- Nonverbal communication
- How to get to know people
- Understanding body language
- Handling emotions
- Understanding emotions
- The difference between bullying and humor
Book Your Appointment With Little Feet Pediatric Therapy Today
Are you concerned your child is having trouble when it comes to developing social skills?
Do they have trouble with eye contact or seem easily irritated by lights and sounds?
Or perhaps you’ve already received a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder for your child and want to explore options to help them develop social skills.
We’re Little Feet Pediatric Therapy, and we can help.
Contact us today to book your appointment.
► 3535 Randolph Rd, Charlotte, NC 28211
► 1331 H St NW Ste 200, Washington, DC 20005
► St. Louis, MO
► Raleigh, NC
Founded in 2019, Little Feet Therapy offers on site pediatric physical and occupational therapy treatments for children from 2 months to 18 years old with physical and developmental concerns. Our clinics focus on providing therapy in a child’s natural setting where your child is in familiar surroundings, it puts their mind at ease and helps them focus more on the work they’re doing with their pediatric therapist. Our therapists will work with your child at your home, at school, at daycare, or another place in the community where they feel most comfortable.