Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex disorder that affects the development of the brain. These conditions are usually characterized by a varying degree of difficulty in social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and other behavioral issues.
While many people know about the disorder, most might not know what it is like to have autism and live with it.
People with autism often experience a sensory overload accompanied by anxiety and confusion when experiencing changes in their surroundings. Most individuals with autism try to cope with this chaos in their minds by repeating movements, called stimming, like rocking back and forth, flapping arms, and similar gestures.
People might perceive this behavior as “unnatural” and even strange. However, understanding why these symptoms manifest in children with autism might help you understand and comfort them when they need you the most. Let’s dive deeper into what children with autism go through and how you can help.
Struggles children with autism face
The biggest challenges that children with autism face daily include communicating their thoughts and needs and regulating their behavior.
As their environment changes, children with autism are flooded with a range of emotions that create a state of turmoil in their brains. The state of confusion and anxiety, coupled with poorly developed communication skills, can make them socially awkward.
Here are some of the challenges that children with autism face:
Every child faces some level of anxiety, but children with autism feel anxious and stressed about things a typically developing child might not. Some of the situations when an children with autism might feel extremely anxious and worried include:
- Even the smallest disruption in their schedules
- Unfamiliar or unpredictable social situations
- Certain sensitive stimuli such as bright lights, certain smells, and textures in food
- Times of transition, such as starting a new activity
Some manifestations of these stressors include emotional meltdowns, social withdrawal, and increased reliance on obsessions and rituals.
Poor communication skills
Communicating their wants, needs, and concerns helps children regulate their behavior, learn, and socialize. Children with autism struggle with sharing their thoughts, leading to subsequent difficulties regulating their behavior.
Inability to communicate clearly can add to the already high level of anxiety and complicate the situation. Children with autism often require support to learn and practice their communication skills.
The lack of communication skills is also partly due to the inability of children with autism to learn from and interpret social cues and non-verbal communication.
Not being able to read social cues
Social cues such as body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions are paramount when navigating society. Unfortunately, children with autism often struggle with learning and interpreting social cues making it difficult to understand implied behavior and the conversation context.
Children with autism often miss the non-verbal social cues leading to people having to tell them how to behave. It’s no wonder, then, that children with autism are often labeled a “problem child.”
Studies have shown that children with autism might have difficulty with fine and gross motor skills, suggesting that children with autism can be six months behind compared to their peers.
Difficulties with gross motor skills cause children with autism to have body awareness, balance, and motor control issues. Fine motor issues might lead to difficulties completing activities that involve precise movements like writing or playing an instrument.
Resistance to change
Change can be difficult for children to handle. Children with autism find it particularly difficult to adjust even when there is a slight change in their surroundings.
For instance, you might see children with autism resisting a change in the utensil they use to eat their food. While it might not be an issue with most children, it can be a huge change from a child with autisms perspective, leading to anxiety and frustration.
The changes are often the most difficult to handle when they come suddenly and without warning. While children with autism can be taught to accept changes, it does involve a fair amount of training and assistance.
Children with autism need to know that you understand them and acknowledge their opinions even though you might want to introduce a change.
Others are not able to understand them
Autism comes with many issues that might make children with the disorder seem difficult and “not normal.”
Peers of children with autism might not be able to understand why they behave in a certain way and treat them as social outcasts. Bullying is also a huge concern among children with autism.
Bullying can hurt their mental health and self-esteem and make them withdrawn. With an already high level of anxiety and difficulty communicating, bullying can be especially bad for children with autism.
Understanding what children with autism might feel like can go a long way in preventing such behavior and helping them integrate better.
What’s it like to have autism?
While it’s true that you might never exactly understand what it’s like to have autism, you can try to understand what a child with autism goes through. The best way to do it is by comparing some situations we face daily.
For instance, you must have felt shy or uncomfortable while meeting new people at some point in your life. Do you know that children with autism feel like that all the time? Imagine how difficult it was for you to handle that situation. Now imagine how difficult it must be for a child with autism to take it daily with limited communication skills.
Being particular with their things can be a cute quirk for some people, but with children with autism, it can be a nightmare. Children with autism find it extremely difficult to handle any change in their routine, however minor it might seem. A change can be catastrophic to their mind, and they might lose control of their emotions and act out to reestablish a modicum of control.
Controlling anger can also be a huge problem for children with autism. You might have experienced how irrationally you behave when you get angry. Now imagine your brain actively preventing you from acting rationally.
That’s exactly what it is like to have children with autism who can’t control their emotions, including anger, and rationalize their behavior.
Understanding these aspects of autism can help you better connect with a child with autism.
How to connect with an child with autism
Connecting with children with autism can be a huge challenge if you don’t understand where the behavior originates. A child with autism needs special attention and treatment different from a typically developing child.
Here is how you can connect with a child with autism:
Take time to learn triggers
It is crucial to learn what triggers a bout of panic or emotional turmoil in children with autism. Things that can trigger such behavior might include:
- Certain smells, tastes, and textures
It is crucial to monitor what causes the trigger so that you are in a better position to avoid it or deal with it when it is introduced.
Say what you mean
Remember that reading social cues and body language is not a strong suit for children with autism. If you want to communicate something, make it direct and clear. The child might be unable to interpret what you mean from the context of subtle non-verbal cues.
It is best, therefore, to say what is expected of the child so they know exactly what you mean. Children with autism might also need more time to process new information, so if you truly want to connect with them, learn to be patient and give them the time to figure things out at their own pace.
Monitor your reactions
Children with autism and adults struggle with social skills. It might be difficult for them to address certain social situations with appropriate behavioral responses.
It is important to ensure that you monitor their social responses and not misinterpret them as a sign of disrespect or insubordination. They are trying their best to assimilate, and your job is to give them the best chance through care and therapy.
How can ABA therapy help your child with autism?
Applied Behavioral Analysis, or ABA, is a treatment that teaches children with autism functional behavior and new skills. Several studies have proven the effectiveness of ABA in discouraging inappropriate behavior.
ABA is one of the top treatment options for children with autism and can be tailored toward the child’s specific needs. The program helps you and your child set goals, break them down into actionable steps, and meet them in realistic timelines.
ABA therapists meet your children in a one-on-one interaction in a familiar environment for the child that helps alleviate the anxiety and open up the child’s mind to learn new things.
Therapists administer ABA treatment closely with your family and incorporate everyone in the therapy program, encouraging a family approach to modify behavior and induce learning.
Living with autism can be very difficult for your child. It helps if people around them try to understand what they are going through. Knowing how your children with autism feel makes you more empathetic, patient, and helpful in making their life easy to navigate.
Here at Golden Care Therapy, we are committed to helping children with autism learn new skills and lead fruitful, happy, and independent lives. If you are ready to work with the best ABA therapy provider in New York, New Jersey or Indiana, give us a call at (732) 402-0297. Our dedicated team is ready to help and we will treat you like family.