Now that we have learned that autism creates havoc with verbal speech and the communication between the brain and how speech is produced, we now have to look at how autism affects body language.
Body language is the second form of communication that humans use to express their wants and emotions. As with speech, the autistic child has difficulty or no skill at all deciphering what a person is saying with facial expressions or body language. If you want someone to come closer you wave to them. If you want somebody to know your angry, you usually have a scowl on your face. If you are sad or happy, you can see the emotion in your facial expression and how you move your body.
The autistic child does not have an understanding or either body language of facial expression.
They are in a world that is centered in themselves and the nuances of a gesture or hand motion is lost to them. Most autistic children have a hard time making eye contact during conversation. If the adult speaking or working with them does have this knowledge of no eye contact, it can be very for that adult to understand what is happening. It can be frustrating for both the adult and the child when that simple knowledge can save a lot of grief. The child may be listening to you and maybe even understand what you have said, but there attention and focus looks like it is on something else.
The autistic child may not even be looking at what you are thinking they are looking at.
Eye contact is a simple human reaction to communication and that reaction within them does not exist. Even the simple activity of pointing to something you want can be lost in translation to the untrained parent or teacher. If the child is pointing at a cookie, the cookie may not be the object of his or her desire. The cookie is a symbol that may represent that they are hungry or it may be so abstract that the shape of the cookie, round, is the same shape as the toilet and they need to use the restroom. Even color may be an indication of a connection between a want and an abstract idea. It takes time and observation and a lot of out of the box thinking to link the communication patterns of an autistic individual.
The autistic child will have trouble associating your voice and your words in exactly what you want from them. Even their name may not be recognizable to them in their brain and the response to your words may be slow or may not be attended to at all. For this reason some autistic children who have not been diagnosed yet will have a diagnosis of a hearing problem. This is not the case. The child just does not know to respond to your words and if they respond it may not be in the manner that the parent or other adult expects.
The use of grammar in a sentence for mild autistic child is again a problem.
Personal pronouns and verb agreement sometimes do not meet what the adult wants the child to say. You may say, 'it is your birthday today,' and the child will repeat the entire sentence back to you without changing the your to my. First, second, and third person is not always used correctly or will not be used at all. Some autistic children will be stuck on one view of person and will use it in every context. It takes patience and time to be able to build a communication process, and even with both the autistic child may never be able to communicate their needs.
Childproofing Your Home for Your Autistic Child
When you raise an autistic child, especially in the younger years, you really worry about their safety and their whereabouts. The autistic child does not react to normal stimuli nor do they respond to verbal commands as quickly as a non-autistic child. Their curiosity and lack of understanding of danger may put them in harms way more that a normal pre-school child. There are certain things you can do to make your home more autistic child friendly and these few precautions could make your household safer and give you peace of mind.
Locks and latches are the best thing to keep cabinets closed and locked from the curiosity of your autistic child. Chemicals and cleaners need to be kept locked and anytime there are in use, they need to be watched carefully. Lock away anything that could be a source of harm to your child. This could include the knife drawer, your sewing basket, chemical closets, and other things that you could foresee as a possible harm for your child. There should be locks on anything of danger especially gun cabinets and other things that would be a danger to anyone.
Using a cordless or wireless phone is a good idea as you go through the day with your autistic child. Talking on the phone and being restricted to one place during your conversation will take away your concentration on supervision. Another reason you might want to consider a cordless phone is to have the availability to call for assistance if you are your child is in danger. The wireless phone will let you tend to your business and also give you the assurance that help is just a phone call away.
It may not be the greatest danger but you should bind up your cords from your drapes and curtains. A curious mind can conjure all sorts of dangerous activities with a hanging cord. They are in danger of hanging themselves or getting caught in the cord and having a panic attack that could lead to dangerous behavior. If you have pets, an autistic child could innocently injure them by tying them to the cord. Anything that loops and could fit around the next should be put up out of reach or bound so that your child can not use it in a dangerous manner.
Not only does the inside of you house need to be childproofed, but the outside as well.
Watch your child around swing sets or tire swings. Again the danger of getting caught in the chains or wrapping a rope around their neck is possible. Watch out for lawnmowers and other dangerous lawn grooming equipment. The curious mind might have watched daddy start and mow the lawn and the danger of the blades might not have stuck in the mind as much as the process of getting it started. If you have a fenced in lawn, make sure there is a latch and a lock on the gate. Autistic children have a skill of disappearing when your back is turned and it would be easier to find them in the backyard than having to search for them down the street.
This information may seem redundant, but the reality is that your child may have different motives than what you perceive. With the lack of communication skills and the lack of social behavior, the child can put themselves into a lot of danger very easily. Just use common sense and make supervision a number one priority.
How to Stop the Dangerous Practice Of Self-Injury
Many wonder why anyone would practice self-injury, as it is painful and dangerous. However, with autistic children, self-injury occurs more often than not. There are several theories as to why this practice can be prevalent in autistic children, and there are some methods you can use to help ease this distressing practice.
Because autistic children are unable to communicate through language the way that others can, they often feel frustrated at not being understood or at not getting what they need or want. Thus, autistic children may commit self-injury, by banging their heads or biting themselves (among other tactics), to release some of that frustration that cannot be communicated through words. Also, self-injury is a way of getting attention. An autistic child's frustration goes hand-in-hand with wanting attention. For instance, by scratching oneself until one bleeds, the autistic child will immediately get someone's attention, and this person will work to understand what the child wants or needs.
This theory of frustration and attention has been the sole thinking for quite some time. Recently, however, studies have shown that self-injury can have a biochemical component that relieves some of the pain and frustration one feels by releasing endorphins, or "happy hormones," into one's system. The endorphins also provide a release for the autistic child, allowing him or her to temporarily forget about his or her frustration and pain. Furthermore, it is believed that if one practices self-injury enough, the endorphins will begin to help mask any pain associated with such behavior, making it an addictive action.
While some professionals say that ignoring the autistic child's self-injurious behavior is an acceptable method of treating such practice, this can obviously be very difficult. Others have suggested that communication therapy and drugs may help an autistic child by providing him or her with another method of communication. There are drugs that will help stem the addictive behavior of releasing endorphins into the system, and thus help stop such behavior. There are also nutritional solutions available; vitamin B6 and calcium have been said to help many families with an autistic child.
For the family members involved, communication training to learn how to communicate with an autistic child is also extremely important. Because normal adults, and even children and teenagers, are so accustomed to communicating through easily recognizable words or body language, they have to learn that communicating with an autistic child requires a completely different process. By looking for solutions for both the family and the autistic child involved in self-injurious behavior, one may be able to overcome this distressing practice.
How To Deal with Autistic Teenagers
For most parents, one of the most trying times in their lives is during their child's teenage years. When puberty hits, young adults go through serious changes in their bodies and minds, and parents have little or no control over many situations. In an autistic child, puberty is no different.
Although your autistic child is not experiencing puberty in quite the same ways as others his or her age, major hormonal changes still occur in the body. This can lead to extreme results, and this can be either good or bad depending on how your child reacts to the new hormone levels.
One of the scariest side effects of changes in an autistic person's body is the onset of seizures. Many autistic individuals experience seizures from birth to adulthood, but even if your child does not suffer from these episodes, he or she may begin to experience seizures during puberty and afterwards, due to the new levels of hormones in the body. Strange as it may sound, violent shaking seizures are not necessarily a bad thing. Almost a quarter of autistic children experience seizures, but many go undetected because they are not textbook versions of seizures. If you recognize that your child is experiencing a seizure, you can do something about it, and doctors will be able to better treat your child. However, if the seizures are subconsciously happening, you and your child may not realize it. The result of these small hidden seizures can be a loss in function, which can be devastating, especially if you child was improving before puberty. Regular check-ups during puberty, therefore, are extremely important.
The changes might not necessarily be a bad thing. New hormone levels in the body and the other changes associated with puberty might help your autistic child grow and succeed in areas in which he or she normally had no skill or interest. Many parents report that their child's behavior improved, and that learning in social settings was easier.
The important thing about puberty is to learn to monitor the changes in your child very carefully and to ask your doctor lots of questions. Remember that puberty is a difficult experience for any young adult, and so it will be even more difficult for someone with autism. Try to practice patience and understanding with your teen, and be careful to regulate his or her autism so that the transition from child to adult will go more smoothly.