Is your little one autistic? How do you know? About one in 160 children are diagnosed with autism each year. Symptoms of autism usually appear during the first three years of childhood and continue throughout life.
Many of these children live in a world all their own…not talking to or touching other people.You may have seen or heard news stories about possible causes of autism.
Theories range from mercury in infant vaccines to genetics to the age of the parents to almost everything else. At present, most researchers think autism is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors – and it’s quite possible that different people’s symptoms have different causes.
People with autism can be a little autistic or very autistic. Thus, it is possible to be bright, verbal, and autistic as well as mentally retarded, non-verbal and autistic.
Autism is a complex biological disorder. Symptoms include difficulties with speech; abnormalities of posture or gesture; problems with understanding the feelings of others; sensory and visual misperceptions, fears and anxieties; and behavioral abnormalities such as compulsive/obsessive behavior and ritualistic movements.
Children with autism might have problems talking with you, or they might not look you in the eye when you talk to them. They may have to line up their pencils before they can pay attention, or they may say the same sentence again and again to calm themselves down. They may flap their arms to tell you they are happy, or they might hurt themselves to tell you they are not. Some people with autism never learn how to talk.
Many children with autism engage in repetitive movements such as rocking and hair twirling, or in self-injurious behavior such as biting or head-banging. They also tend to start speaking later than other children and may refer to themselves by name instead of “I” or “me.”
Autism is a lifelong diagnosis. For some people, often (but not always) those who receive intensive early intervention, symptoms may decrease radically. People with autism can also learn coping skills to help them manage their difficulties and even build on their unique strengths. But a person with autism will probably be autistic throughout their lives.
Some interesting information about autism is that it is more common in boys than in girls, there is not a good answer about how does it happens, and recent studies says that 1 percent of USA children are affected by this condition.
Imagine you were in a foreign, noisy, and crowded city at night, not understanding the language spoken, recognizing a few words but not really comprehending situations taking place around you, wanting to express a need for help but not being able. This experience may begin to help you relate to what a child with autism feels on an ordinary day.
People who have autism often have delayed language development. They usually have trouble with social interactions. Another characteristic of autism is what some people describe as “sensory overload”: Sounds seem louder, lights brighter, or smells stronger.
Characteristic traits include lack of eye contact, repetition of words or phrases, unmotivated tantrums, inability to express needs verbally, and insensitivity to pain. Behaviors may change over time. Autistic children often have other disorders of brain function.
“I can assure you there is no more powerful advocate for children than a parent armed with information and options.
Holiday Tips for Families Living with Autism
The holiday period can be a stressful time for those on the autism spectrum because it is a breach in their daily routine. However, if we anticipate the holidays and what they entail before they arrive, the person with autism can be made more comfortable and at ease—ensuring joy for all throughout the holidays!
Everyone in the car!” Starting Off on Successful Outings*
To help day trips run more smoothly, travel in two cars so that one person can return home with your loved one on the autism spectrum if he/she gets distressed.
* Eat before leaving home or bring food with you.
* Bring a quiet toy, like a calculator, to a restaurant, during religious services or other social activity.
When going to large social gatherings, arrive early to let the person on the autism spectrum get accustomed to the growing number of people.
* If he/she becomes distressed during a social gathering, pick a quiet place to go or take him out for a walk.
* When visiting someone’s home, ask to remove breakables from reach; think carefully about visiting those who refuse to accommodate your request.
* Bring a preferred item, favorite toys or stuffed animals to a family gathering or other social event.
* Before going to a family event, look at individual pictures of family members and teach him/her their names.
* Before going to a social event, use “social stories” and practice simple courtesy phrases and responses to questions, either verbal, with pictures, or gestures. (“How are you?” “I am fine.” “How is school?” “Good.”)
* Let trusted others spend time with your child if they volunteer.
* Ask for help if you need it. Families and friends are often eager to participate.
(I’m Here was actually inspired by an Autistic boy. It shows children that there are other ways to communicate and invite play without using words.
And you’re there.
And that’s okay.
maybe there will be a gentle wind that pulls us together.
And then I’ll be here and you’ll be here, too.
Pure, powerful and deceptively simple, bestselling author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds reminds us that children—and the friendships they make—can take flight in unexpected ways.)
“Do we have to go to the mall???”
* To help your loved one with autism get used to malls, go early before the stores open. Walk around, get familiar with the building, buy a snack when the stores open, and leave. Extend the amount of time at the mall each time you go.
* When shopping, be positive and give small rewards, such as a piece of candy, for staying with you.
* To teach your child not to touch things when shopping, visit a clothing store or another store with unbreakable objects; this gives him/her an opportunity to model behavior and minimize risk.
* When shopping, bring a helper to have an extra set of eyes and hands until you are confident of a safe experience.
* Provide headphones or earplugs to the person with autism spectrum to moderate the noise and activity around them.
For some Free Printable Picture Cards click on the puzzle piece.
I search for a story that would touch your heart about Autism. I know I found the right one that should teach us all about the mysteries of this disease.
By Susan Harrison Wolffis
He was born “bright and beautiful,” a child who started talking in complete sentences when he was only 8 months old.
Nicholas Krishnan never used baby talk; he liked description.
“He was scooting around in one of those little walkers, you know, like kids have,” his mom says, “and he pointed at the angel on the Christmas tree … ‘angel in a bottle,’ he said, because I kept it in a plastic tube the rest of the year.
“He was my little, expressive boy.”
But when he was 18 months old, Nicholas was taken hostage, silenced by autism, a neurological disorder that stole his language, affected his agility and coordination, and robbed him of all his social skills.
“Sometimes, I felt like a childless mother,” his mom says.
He stopped making eye contact with his mother, Shari Krishnan and his father, Dr. Rajan Krishnan, a medical oncologist, who live in Bloomfield Hills.
The twinkle in his eyes vanished. He no longer spoke.
“We thought we’d lost him,” Shari Krishnan says. “It would be years before he would ever look at us again.”
It is a natural place to stop in her son’s story.
Nicholas, now 12, is at her side, munching on dry Cheerios while she talks in between the first of the day’s three band rehearsals at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp.
Nicholas is a drummer.
Shari Krishnan touches his chin, lifting his face to look in his eyes.
“You OK, buddy?” she asks.
He does not answer with words, just a grin, and returns to the Cheerios.
He is dressed in his Blue Lake “blues” — blue pants, blue shirt, blue sweater — just like the other 150 fifth- and sixth-graders in music camp the past two weeks.
But he does not blend in.
Nicholas is the most severely disabled student ever to attend Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, says camp director Heidi Stansell.
“I expected them to say no when I called to ask about the possibility of my son coming to camp,” Shari Krishnan says, “but I figured if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.”
“My first response was: ‘Why not?’” Stansell answers. “If you have family and parents to work with, why put up road blocks? I said, ‘let’s find a way to do this.’”
It meant Nick’s mom coming to camp with him as his aide, sitting in on all the practices, going with him to all the events on the schedule morning, noon and night, hanging out in the lunchroom.
This morning at 9:30 a.m., with mom’s help on his parts, Nick will be on stage in his band’s final concert of the session.
The fine arts camp is familiar territory for Shari Krishnan. In 1976, she was a Blue Lake camper, an oboe and tenor sax player who grew up to be a nurse but who loved music even more than medicine.
Before her son was born, she prayed he would love music as much as she did.
“You have all these dreams for your child, and then something like this (autism) happens, and they tell you to get new dreams,” she says. “Well, this … camp … is one of my first dreams to come true for him.”
Every child comes to camp with a story, a challenge, a triumph, a parent’s dream.
But Nicholas’ is more significant than most.
As a boy, he learned to talk again, only after he started playing the drums.
As a camper, his lessons aren’t all about music.
“He’s learning to be a 12 year old,” his mom says.
(Care.com is the world’s largest online marketplace for finding and managing family care with more than 9.7 million members across 16 countries.)
“They said the best we could hope for was placement in an institution,” his mom says.
The Krishnans rejected the doctors’ forecast. They took their boy with the big brown eyes, once so animated but now so vacant, home with them. They started on their own course of therapy: Suzuki violin lessons for discipline and the joy of music; gymnastics and swimming lessons to help his faltering coordination and sense of where his body fit into his surroundings.
“No one gives instruction books to parents on how to raise a kid with disabilities,” Shari Krishnan says, “so you do the best you can.”
Nothing seemed to click.
Until Nicholas played the drums.
When he was 4 years old, while Shari Krishnan was studying for her master’s degree, she heard about a music therapy program in Colorado that used African drums to reach children with autism.
What happened, she says, is nothing short of a miracle.
The beat of the drum replaced the words no longer spoken between parents and child.
“We connected with our boy again,” Shari Krishnan says.
“He couldn’t do the give-and-take of conversation.”
But he could answer the call-and-response of the drums, parents sounding out rhythms; Nicholas answering them.
“It was the only way we could talk to each other,” his mother says.
“What do you like best about camp?” Nick’s mom asks.
She points to the fingers on her hand: music, choir, band, kids, swimming.
Nicholas touches the fourth finger.
“Kids,” he says.
When he was 6, Nicholas started to talk again.
His mom had given him a lollipop and, as always, she was talking to him, asking him what flavor it was, keeping up her end of the conversation, calling him “buddy;” calling him “my love.”
“We were exhausted, wondering if we were doing the right things for him,” she says, “and he always gave us signs that it was worth it.”
She unwrapped the lollipop; he popped it into his mouth.
“It is root beer,” he announced, waving it in the air as if it were a king’s sceptre. Then he repeated himself. “It is root beer.”
“We knew he had language in there,” his mom says.
Nicholas is still no chatterbox. It’s tough to engage him in spontaneous conversation. Left to his own devices, he sings quietly to himself, almost imperceptibly: songs from choir, music from band practice, conversation just past, camp songs the other kids sing while waiting in line, the scales and warm-up notes.
“Hi, Nick!” a crowd of girls calls to him in between practice sessions.
To the uninitiated, it seems like he isn’t paying attention until his mother urges him to repeat himself.
“Big voice, buddy,” she says.
“Hi, kids!” he shouts, his volume turned up high enough for everyone to hear.
“The kids are the big wow here,” his mom says. “They are the magic.”
“It is not our abilities that define us, it is our choices. It is not what one is born that truly matters, it is what one grows to become.”
Baby Bumble Bee The Baby Bumblebee series is a wonderful and essential tool in educating your autistic son or daughter
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