There is no cure for autism but there are ways to manage the condition and promote independence.
Treatments and therapies
When a child is diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder, they will be cared for by a multi-disciplinary team, which is made up of a number of different healthcare professionals; once they are old enough to go to school, they will also be given additional help and support. A number of treatments and therapies are offered to help children learn valuable life skills, such as social and communication skills, develop independence and gain a better understanding of the world around them.
Treatments and therapies include speech and language therapy, behavioural therapy, occupational therapy, medication and cognitive behavioural therapy. Additional support is also available at school and throughout adult life, which will involve assistance with academic study and finding employment, as well as emotional support and life skills.
Dealing with children with autism
It can be very difficult, challenging and frustrating looking after a child with autism, as they often demand a lot of attention and have difficulty communicating and displaying affection. Often children appear withdrawn and disinterested and are not affectionate in the way that most children are.
Behaviour: children with autism often have irrational, erratic behaviour, especially if their routine is interrupted or they find themselves in an unfamiliar environment. It is important for parents to understand why their child is behaving erratically and find ways to respond to the behaviour and deal with it in an effective way. Experts recommend parents to be as patient as possible and try to stick to a consistent routine. If they want to change the routine, they should take time to explain this to their child and outline what will happen instead of the usual routine. It is also beneficial to engage in regular exercise with children.
Sleep: many children with autism suffer from disturbed sleep patterns. This may involve difficulties settling at night or problems with waking up during the night. Experts advise parents to keep a sleep diary for their child and arrange to see their GP to discuss possible ways of improving their child’s sleep pattern.
Preparing for change and new environments: autistic people have problems understanding the ways of the world and this may cause them to be anxious and agitated when they are in a new environment. It is best to try and prepare them as soon as possible, as this gives them time to get used to the idea of change and start to find ways of coping with new environments and change. Explain what is going to happen in step by step detail, talk about the environment, for example, tell your child what noises to expect and what they will see.
Eating: many children with autism have a difficult relationship with food. Some may be very fussy, some may over-eat and others may eat very little. If your child has problems with eating keep a food diary, as this will identify the foods your child eats and the environment in which they feel most comfortable.
Dealing with adults with autism
Many adults with autism have learnt to deal with scenarios and have a better understanding of the world as a result of years of therapy and treatment. However, they will still struggle with certain situations and may have difficulty integrating into society. Many adults appear aloof and struggle to get close to other people and some may struggle when it comes to social norms and acceptable social actions. For example, they may stand very close to other people when they are waiting in a queue. It is important to understand that people do not have the built-in understanding of the world that others have and this affects the way they behave around other people.