The world can be overwhelming for children with autism as they struggle to cope with the impact of anxiety, wrote Karen Maclennan of The Jakarta Post, an English language newspaper in Indonesia. Alarmingly, these children are twice as likely to develop anxiety than those without autism. Around 40% are diagnosed with at least one anxiety disorder and the most common of which is a specific phobia, which refers to a person’s extreme fear of a particular object, person, animal, place, or situation.
Many people with autism carry this anxiety into adulthood, thereby affecting their future and quality of life. Sensory hyper-reactivity, bright lights, clothing fabrics has been cited as a factor in developing anxiety. In fact, it is commonly experienced by children with autism and is one of the criteria for diagnosing someone with autism. Children with autism struggle to ignore the things their five senses gather, making them feel exhausted, stressed, and overwhelmed. Such feelings then result in increased sensory hyper-reactivity, creating a cycle of anxiety caused by sensory difficulties and vice versa.
It can be hard for parents to see their children experience such struggles. Parents may be confused as to how to take care of a child with autism. If you think your child has autism, it is best to equip yourself with the necessary knowledge about autism, as well as tips to help your little one.
What Is Autism?
Autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a broad range of conditions that exhibits challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and non-verbal communication, said Autism Speaks, the US’s largest autism advocacy organization. Autism has many subtypes influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Each individual with autism has their own strengths and challenges since autism is a spectrum disorder.
Hence, their capabilities can range from being highly skilled to severely challenged. Some may even need support in their lives, while others need less support and live independently—albeit in some cases. Signs of autism usually appear by two or three years old. Associated development delays can appear earlier, but these can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Some factors are associated with the development of autism, but it is also accompanied by mental health challenges, gastrointestinal (GI) disorder, seizures, or sleep disorders.
Key Statistics You Need to Know About Autism
Estimates made by Jon Baio and colleagues of the US’s national public health institute CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) found that of 325,483 children aged eight years old, about one in 59 of (1.7%) had been diagnosed with ASD among 11 surveillance sites in 2014, cited research news platform Science Daily. The figure showed a 15% increase from 2012 (one in 69, 1.4%) and was also the highest prevalence since CDC tracked ASD in 2000 (one in 150, 0.7%).
ASD is also four times more common among boys (one in 38, 2.7%) than girls (one in 152, 0.7%). 31% of children with ASD have an intellectual disability (IQ <70), 25% are in the borderline range (IQ 71-85), and 44% have an IQ level greater than 85, which are in the above average range. ASD prevalence estimates show that approximately 20% to 30% higher among white children than black children, with the difference of 7% for the surveillance year 2015.
Prevalence among white children was almost 70% higher than Hispanic children in 2002 and 2006, and approximately 50% higher in 2008, 2010, and 2012, with the difference of 22% for surveillance year 2014.
In the US, the total costs per year for children with autism were between $11.5 billion to $60.9 billion, accounting for a variety of direct and in-direct costs from medical care to special education and lost parental productivity, as found by the CDC.
Children and adolescents with ASD had average medical expenditures that surpassed those without ASD by $4,110 to $6,200 each year. Medical expenditures for children and adolescents with ASD were 4.1 times to 6.2 times greater than those without ASD. Differences in expenditure were from $2,240 to $3,360 each year with median expenditures 8.4 and 9.5 times greater. Moreover, intensive behavioral interventions for children with ASD cost $40,000 to $60,000 per child every year.
6 Tips to Help Your Child With Autism Thrive
1. Don’t Wait for A Diagnosis
Start your child’s treatment right away as soon as you suspect something wrong, recommended HelpGuide, a guide on mental health and wellness. Don’t wait to see if your little one will catch up with their peers or outgrow the problem.
The earlier your child gets help, the higher the success rate of their treatment. Early intervention is one of the most surefire ways to hasten your child’s development and minimize the symptoms of autism over their lifespan.
2. Familiarize Yourself With Autism and With Your Child’s Triggers
The more you know about autism, the more you are likely to make informed decisions for your child. Know the treatment options, ask questions, and participate in treatment decisions. You also need to be an expert on your child. Try to find out the triggers behind your child’s disruptive behaviors and which ones trigger a positive response.
What does your child find stressful? Enjoyable? Frightening? You’ll be better at preventing or modifying situations and address problems if you understand your child’s triggers.
3. Accept Your Child for Who They Are
Rather than mulling over how they are “missing” a few traits, practice accepting them for who they are. Celebrate small successes and enjoy their special quirks. Medical news website WebMD recommended practicing positive reinforcement.
For example, praise your child if they exhibit good behavior, making them (and you) feel good. Be sure to be specific so they know what you like about their behavior. You can reward them with a small prize or extra playtime. Most importantly, avoid comparing your child with other kids.
4. Stay On Schedule
Individuals on the spectrum like routines. Ensure that your child gets consistent guidance and interaction, enabling them to practice what they learn from therapy. This helps them apply what they have learned in practical settings. Talk to your child’s teachers and therapists to work up a consistent set of techniques and methods of interaction to bring at home.
5. Reach Out to Others
You can join a support group to get advice from friends, other families, and professionals. Groups are a great way to share advice and information as well as to meet and interact with parents who are facing the same challenges as you.
6. Give It Time
Don’t jump to conclusions about what your child’s future or life will be like in the next decade or two. Individuals with autism have an entire lifetime to grow and harness their skills. Moreover, you will likely try several approaches, techniques, and treatments before determining which one works best for your child. Don’t be discouraged if one method is not working.
Don’t shun them from the family just because they have autism. Your child will need your unconditional love and care. Exercise patience and be positive about your child’s development, regardless of how slow it is. Remember, people with autism still have the potential to shine in this world.