Like any other parents, it never easy to learn that your precious offspring has a health or developmental disorder. You will surely be baffled and overwhelmed. While it is true that autism is not something a person can simply “grows out of”, there are many treatments and activities that can help children acquire new skills and even overcome developmental challenges. A sequel to our previous articleDoes My Child Has Autism? What Signs should I Look Out For?, we will explore what parents can do and as well as, preventive measures for expectant mothers.

What Can you Do?

Schedule a screening.

If you observed and noticed any of the red flags from our previous article, do schedule an appointment with a doctor immediately. In fact, it is a good idea to get your child screened even if they seem perfectly fine. Routine developmental screening is recommended at 9, 18 and 30 months of age. Do note that there is no single medical test that can diagnose autism definitely, therefore, multiple evaluations, tests and doctor’s observation are needed. Below are some of the available screening options:

  • Parent’s interview – For doctors to understand information and your observation about your child’s medical, behavioural and developmental condition.
  • Medical screening – Neurological tests, lab tests, genetic tests, lead screening, autism screening tools
  • Hearing tests 
  • Doctor’s observation
  • Speech and language evaluation
  • Cognitive testing
  • Adaptive functioning assessment
  • Sensory-motor evaluation

Editor’s advice: Do get a second opinion in any circumstances, just to ensure the diagnosis is accurate. 

Seek early intervention. 

You can wait-and-see when you’re having a flu or cough, but NEVER wait-and-see when your child is suspected or diagnosed with autism. Early intervention is the key to “optimal outcomes” for children with autism. Although autism is a lifelong condition, children who received early treatments managed to outgrow autism. Quickly seek your doctor’s advice, and it is advisable to ensure that your doctor is specialised in developmental disorders for more accurate advice. Below are some treatment options in treating autism:

  • Medication – Doctors may prescribe medication to succumb symptoms like depression, seizures, hyperactivity or anxiety.
  • Diet change – There are certain types of vitamins and nutrition needed for children with a developmental disorder, and it varies across different individual. Seek your doctor’s advice.
  • Therapies – Behavior therapy, speech-language therapy, play-based therapy, physical therapy

Don’t wait for a diagnosis.

Your child will need to go through multiple evaluations to accurately diagnose autism and this may take some time. If the red flags are obvious enough or your instinct tells you that your child may have autism, it is wise to get your child on treatments straight away instead of waiting for a definitive diagnosis.

Educate yourself on autism.

Learn all you can about autism, this way, you will be able to make informed decisions for your child. Ask your doctor questions, seek advice from experienced parents and read as much as you can on all available treatment options.

Become an expert of your child.

As a parent, you are in the best position to monitor your child’s development and behaviour. Don’t push all the responsibilities to your doctor when they only get to see your child for less than half an hour during every visit. Ensure that you keep a close eye on your child’s progress, and if possible, write them down on a journal. This can also be done once your bundle of joy is delivered, which makes it more effective to spot any developmental problem early.

Trust your instinct.

As much as doctors are the experts in the field, an autism diagnosis is extremely difficult especially during early childhood. With the wide degree of variation in the way autism affects children, even great doctors may miss certain red flags or underestimate your child’s symptoms. Listen to your gut feeling and if it’s telling you something is wrong, be persistent! Seek a second opinion, or get a referral to a child development specialist.

Build a support system and seek help.

Join local groups and get to know families of children of autism. That way, you get to share and learn from each other from their experience. Taking care of a child with autism is not easy and sometimes, overwhelming. Therefore, it is truly important to seek help and support from others.

Instill habits at home.

The most important part of the treatment process is for parents to be involved. As your child spends most of their time with you, these simple habits will help your child tremendously:Cute and adorable little girl with glasses getting stressed out as she is reading

  • Let your child stick to a routine schedule
  • Teach them simple tasks by breaking down the steps
  • Train and let them learn based on your child’s interests
  • Be consistent with their habits, daily routine, learning style, therapy and even interaction
  • Provide regular reinforcement of behaviour
  • Magnify their strengths and build on skills they are lacking
  • Understand your child’s learning style and work around it- Auditory, visual or kinesthetic

Create a home safety zone.

It is vital to ensure that your home has safety measures as children with autism are not aware of the danger. They may think that playing with fire is fun, or in some cases, they may inflict self-injury when throwing a tantrum. One way to let your child feel more secure and safe is to properly organize your house and set boundaries by labelling them with colourful notes or tapes.

Reward good behaviour.

Children with autism need constant encouragement and positive reinforcement. Make an effort to praise them when they learnt a new skill or completed a specific task assigned to them. Be very specific with the behaviour you’re praising them for. You should also reward them as they progress, such as buying a new toy for them or letting them watch their favourite tv show.

Make time for fun.

Your child’s life should be more than just therapy and treatments. They are children after all. Remember to allocate playtime for your child and play along with them! Keep them smiling, laughing and they will gradually come out of their shell. While monitoring their progress, you can slowly organize play dates with some friends to let them feel more comfortable making friends.

Don’t Compare.

You need to accept your child, enjoy your child’s special quirks, celebrate small improvements and stop comparing your child to others. Rather than focusing on your child’s disorder, change that mindset of yours. You have a special child! Otherwise, without realising, you will subconsciously treat your child like a patient and different from other children.

Preventive Measures

Though autism is believed to be caused by genetic factors, studies have also found that autism may be caused by the external environment while in the mother’s womb or even after birth. Therefore, expectant mothers can practise the following preventive measures for precaution.

Take multivitamin. It is advisable for expectant mothers to consume 400microgram of folic acid daily to help prevent birth defects. Though it is not clear if it helps to prevent autism, there’s no harm taking vitamins!

Avoid anti-depressant pills. Risk of your child exposed to autism disorder is highly increased if expectant mothers consume anti-depressant medication. Consult your doctor to know all about the risks and benefits of these drugs. Find out if there are other alternatives to treat depression because untreated depression can also affect your child later on. Definitely a tough decision to make!

Prenatal care. Keep a healthy diet, consume nutritious food, avoid infections, be optimistic & happy, rest well and ensure you go for regular check-ups can increase the chanced of giving birth to a healthy child.

Family at home. Little girl with her brother. Mother and father with children

Most Importantly

Don’t worry too much! Autism is just a disorder, not an illness.  With the right treatment and training, and lots of love and support, your child will surely learn, grow and thrive! Don’t give up – Your child is the best gift ever and they will forever be your bundle of joy!

If you have not read our previous articleDoes My Child Has Autism? What Signs Should I Look Out For?, do spend some time to read! It is more important to understand the symptoms of autism and detect it earlier, as treatments are proven more successful if diagnosed before 18 months of age