Parenting Autistic Children – A Challenge For Parents of Autistic Children

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I have nothing but respect for those adults who are parenting autistic children as it must be a very difficult life for all concerned. But let’s back up a little, and discover what autism is. According to Wikipedia (wikipedia.com) autism is a development disorder of the brain and is characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, along with restricted and repetitive behaviour which generally starts before a child becomes three years old. Research has shown that autism has a strong genetic base, and in some rare cases, it is strongly associated with an agent that causes birth defects.

There are other studies that suggest that vaccinations might have an effect too when given in early childhood, but there is no conclusive evidence of this as yet.

So, how does this actually affect behaviour? For many of us, Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of an autistic man in the movie “Rain Man” is the first we have known of this particular disorder, and although the character Hoffman plays is fictional, the movie does help people to understand a little more the life that the autistic have.

Can a parent spot symptoms of autism when the child is younger than three? Yes, if they know what to look for, but unfortunately, especially for a first born child, it may be harder to spot. With the kind of society we have, with relatives living further away, or even in different countries, we have had to use others from outside our families to baby sit for us. This means that “norms” of talking, or sitting up etc, are not as often remarked upon, and it becomes easier to miss the fact that our baby may not be talking at one. And again, because of the financial pressure for both parents to be working outside the home, babysitters may not report the lack of progress in speech to a parent.

So what should you look out for? Well, of course all babies are different, and progress at different rates, but generally speaking, the autistic child does have great difficulty communicating, so at the age of two, they probably will not be speaking very much, and will be unable to form sentences. They may not like to be hugged, but we have to remember that there are differences between boys and girls too. In fact reports state that boys are four times more likely to have an autism disorder than girls, and the rate of diagnosis of autism is one or two cases per one thousand children. This means that there are a huge number of children with this brain disorder.

It should be noted also, that a child may develop normally, speaking and communicating well at an early age, but then regress, or lose this ability at a later date. Unfortunately there is no known cure for this brain disorder, although the earlier a child is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can be started to encourage communication skills. There are other symptoms too, like repetitively flapping a hand around, or continually tilting the head to one side.

The result of autism is that parenting autistic children can last forever, in that the child may always have communication and socializing problems. Their brain disorder and low mental ability may stop them from working, and may mean that they can never live by themselves. This is why I respect parents of autistic children, because they have to give so much more every day than the parents of a child with normal development. Parenting autistic children is definitely way more challenging, and raising any child can be very draining!

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