Given the vast disinformation spread and lack of knowledge surrounding Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), many adults and children are unaware of how the effects of the neurodevelopmental disorder may affect their peers. Educating children without autism on the disorder is a great way to help them understand the challenges their autistic peers face and hopefully, decrease bullying.
Explain What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism Spectrum Disorder (AS) which is commonly referred to as ‘autism’ is considered a developmental disability. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the developmental disability is defined as potentially causing “significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.”
Explain that autism is a disability that affects many children. These children are just like other children but they have difficulty fitting in with their peers socially, behaviorally and academically.
What Causes Autism?
Explain that autism is not something the child chose and doctor’s aren’t 100% sure what the causes are. Autism is not an illness, and should not be treated as such.
Certain factors have been identified as likely having an effect on the presence of autism, “including environmental, biologic and genetic factors.” Some factors which make children more likely to have autism include:
- Having a specific type of gene
- Having a sibling with autism
- “Individuals with certain genetic or chromosomal conditions, such as fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis”
- Being born to older parents
There is no evidence to back up the dangerous and unscientific claim that vaccines cause autism. Several studies have shown that there is no link between vaccines and autism. The CDC has an informative page detailing the lack of scientific basis for such a claim.
Share Information Specific to Your Child
Autism is a spectrum disability. Explain that everyone with autism is different. In some children it might not be noticeable at all, while with other children they are completely nonverbal. You can help children understand where your child stands on the autism spectrum scale and what can be expected.
Autism should not be spoken about as something which is bad and to be feared. In fact, there are many resources available online to help with communicating about autism. If you are unsure about the kind of information you should share with your child, you can contact an educational professional or a therapist specialized in autism for help.
Read Books About Autism and Autistic Characters
As with all subjects, books are a great and effective way to help children understand difficult concepts. There are many books written and designed to help make ASD a more comprehensible notion which will help children, both with and without autism, understand the condition and what it entails.
Books can also make the conversation more interactive and less stressful for the child reading. They can be a helpful bonding activity, as well.
Different Like Me and My Brother Charlie are great books to read to children to help them understand autism.
Explaining Autistic Meltdowns to Children without Autism
Meltdowns of autistic children can be some of the most difficult behaviors for children without autism to understand. According to the National Autistic Society, a meltdown is “an intense response to an overwhelming situation [which] happens when someone becomes completely overwhelmed by their current situation and temporarily loses control of their behavior.”
This can lead to the expression of a variety of behaviors, such as verbal ones including shouting, screaming, or crying, and physical ones, such as kicking, hitting, and biting. It may also be the other way around: for some people with autism, a meltdown may result in “[refusing] to interact, withdrawing from situations they find challenging or avoiding them altogether.”
By explaining that children with autism have difficulty with communicating their feelings can help other children have more empathy when their autistic peer is having a meltdown .
Let them know what to do in the event of a meltdown. Make sure they know they are not responsible for the autistic child, but they can try to help them. Here are some ideas for dealing with a meltdown:
- Give them some time - it can take a while to recover from information or sensory overload.
- Calmly ask them (or their parent or friend) if they’re OK, but bear in mind they’ll need more time to respond than you might expect.
- Make space – try to create a quiet, safe space as best you can. Ask people to move along and not to stare, turn off loud music and turn down bright lights – whatever you can think of to reduce the information overload, try it.
Building a Bond Between Siblings with and without Autism
Building a bond between siblings is important for any family especially if one has autism and one does not. That being said, it may be difficult for the sibling who does not fall under the ASD spectrum to understand their sibling with autism, making the creation of bonds sometimes more difficult than in other cases.
Here is a list of different ways siblings may struggle with having an autistic sibling:
- Not knowing how to connect with their sibling with autism
- Lack of attention and alone time with parents
- Concerns about privacy
- Stress from increased responsibility
It is important to listen to each sibling about their struggles and to try to understand why they may feel the way they do.
Honest Questions are Not Rude
One situation which children without autism may struggle to understand is when children with autism ask questions in ways that appear, at first sight, to be rude or too straightforward. By explaining to typical children that people with autism may struggle with social cues or to incorporate social norms in the way they speak. As a result they may ask questions in a way that seems mean without intending it to be at all.
How an ABA Therapist Can Help
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapists are a great way to help children with autism work with their loved ones and family in order to create and promote healthy, communicative relationships. In this section, we will look at what ABA is, how it can help with children with autism, and where you can find high-quality, professional ABA therapy.
What is ABA Therapy?
ABA focuses on identifying harmful behaviors and promoting positive behaviors. It works with the individual child, their problematic behaviors and their family’s to overcome challenges. The use of positive reinforcement aims to change negative behaviors into positive ones.
ABA therapy can also be effectively used with other behavioral problems such as addiction, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.
What Golden Care Therapy Does to Help
Golden Care Therapy uses ABA therapy to best help the child involved and their parents reach their goals in a sustainable way. Its personalized design helps account for all of the different aspects of the child’s life which may require adaptation to ensure success. The focuses of Golden Care Therapy’s program include:
- Language Skills
- Skills Acquisition
- Behavior Modification
- Activities of Daily Life (ADL) Skills
- Social Skills
- Executive Function
Golden Care Therapy also offers Social Skills Groups designed to help children with autism practice social skills in a safe and supervised environment. This is a great way for your child to put into practice the skills they acquire during one-on-one therapy in a fun way.
How Does the Golden Care Therapy Process Work?
If you are a parent looking for quality therapy for your child with autism, Golden Care Therapy has made the process especially easy to access the help you need. The Golden Care Therapy website has outlined the simple steps you will take once you decide to seek professional help.
The first step of the process is to either call Golden Care Therapy or fill out one of the online forms which can be found here.
The second step is to send in insurance information and the formal diagnosis of the child. Once received, the clinical director will meet with your child and yourself for evaluation and to establish the specific therapeutic needs.
Once the assessment has been done, a report will be written out by one of the members of the Golden Care Therapy team which will then be submitted to your insurance. After receiving the insurance’s approval, the child will be able to begin the therapy.
The final steps will be setting up a schedule to best fit you and your child’s personal agendas.
In this guide, we considered how to best explain autism to children who do not have autism, what the best strategies are for difficult situations of communication, and what kind of professional help is available to help for children with autism struggling in their behavior.