Autism Basics – Tools for Survival

boyAutism has long been associated with food allergies and intolerances but we’ll return to them later in this series, for now I’m going back to basics.

Regardless of just where the child is on the spectrum, most parents share common worries regarding the lack of communication and social abilities. For many parents the most pressing of these concerns speech, which arises from the perfectly natural and almost overwhelming need for the child to call them mommy or daddy and say those all-important words ‘I love you.’

Even parents whose child acquired speech at about the same time as his peers may gradually become aware that their child’s speech differs in quality from that of his peers. Such children may variously use words and language that seem too grown-up for their age; do not understand the nuances of speech; bring every conversation around to a topic they are interested in; speak too loudly or too softly.


However my research and personal experience of the effects of relatively mild sensory differences (in my hearing, vision, and sense of touch) have convinced me that the problems mentioned in the criteria are simply the tip of the iceberg.

So what could possibly underlie them? Followers of this series will already know that part of the answer lies with those sensory differences because of their vital importance, both on the child’s development and in daily life. For those who missed earlier articles let’s have a brief recap.

Initially everything we learn about the people in our world, and the world around us, comes through our senses. But the world of autism is ruled by sensory differences, making such ‘ordinary’ learning impossible.

Walk a mile your child’s shoes and you will find that how he experiences a hug is often far removed from your loving feelings as the ‘hugger.’ That he is aware of smells that you don’t even notice. That your face – and those of other – may seem fragmented or even blank. That the text in his books swirls around or even – quite literally – seems to jump off the page. That what you hear, and happily ignore, actually hurts him. And that means that his life is full of confusion and can be very frightening indeed.

Some people will tell you that the child should be encouraged to adapt to his difficulties. And yet they would not expect a short-sighted child to simply ‘adapt’ and see properly without his glasses. Nor a partially deaf child to hear without a hearing aid. So why on earth do they expect the equivalent of people with ASD?

In contrast others believe that the world should adapt to him and to an extent they are correct (see the tips given in previous articles). And yet, while many places are now moving towards being ‘autism friendly’ throughout his life there are always going to be places – like shopping malls, school dining rooms and the like over which neither he nor you have any control. But there is another option. To level the playing field between him and his peers by giving him the tools he needs to survive.

That is part of a twofold process for there are some relatively quick survival ‘tools’ that can be used to help him in the short term plus some longer term solutions as well.

Let’s begin with vision for it provides over 70% of our information about the world around us. One of the simplest quick fixes is the use of tinted lenses as many people with ASD have already found.  Although still frowned upon by some professionals, I too have validated them through personal experience and certainly have no hesitation in recommending them.

The right tint can help correct some of the visual anomalies, leading to number of benefits which can include:

o Less stress and anxiety
o better eye tracking and depth perception
o a reduction in confusion and hyperactivity
o improvements in the ability to concentrate, learn and remember things
o improved behavior
o increased confidence, sociability and communication

A free checklist of the visual differences and list of suppliers is available at www.autismdecoded.com

Refs: Like Color to the Blind  Donna Williams

Refs: http://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk

 Autism and the sixth sense Steady on!

 

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About Stella Waterhouse

Stella Waterhouse first came across autism in the late 1960s when she met three very different children, all of whom shared the same diagnosis. She began researching autism in 1990 and is a published author of several books including A Positive Approach to Autism which attracted good reviews from such well known autism experts as Donna Williams and Paul Shattock OBE. She has also authored a series of concise but informative books for parents and teachers, and is currently completing her forthcoming series The Autism Code.

For more information see www.autismdecoded.com