How To Support Your Child With Autism: The Role Of A Pediatrician
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can impair a child's development that includes social skills, communication, and behavior. Babies with ASD can sit, crawl, and walk on time, so delays in social and communication skills are overlooked in the first year of life!
But with the help of a pediatrician, we can help diagnose and support our children with autism to foster their growth.
Early Identification and Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Kids
ASD is a complex developmental disability that manifests in early childhood. It is called a "spectrum condition" thus, it affects people differently across various behaviors. Each autistic child has unique requirements.
The earlier autism spectrum disorder is detected, the earlier the intervention program targeting the child's symptoms can begin. This is the underlying reason, which your pediatrician would assert, why early intervention is highly important.
Behaviors Associated With Autism in Kids
ASD patients frequently struggle with social communication, interaction, and restricted or repetitive behaviors or desires. People with ASD learn, move, or pay attention in different ways. Here are some of the most common behaviors associated with autism.
Social and Interacting Skills
Kids with ASD usually have their social and interacting skills affected. Some individuals who don’t have ASD may also exhibit some of these symptoms.
Doesn’t respond when someone calls his name or fails to show basic facial expressions like happiness, sadness, anger, and surprise.
Doesn’t engage with simple interactive games like pat-a-cake or has limited to no gestures such as waving hi or goodbye.
Doesn’t share or talk to friends or family. At times, may show indifference to others.
Incapable of pointing at things that he needs or /is interested in.
Can’t express himself if someone’s hurt or upset.
Doesn’t want to play with others.
Doesn’t engage in pretend play, such as pretending to be a superhero or teacher.
Doesn’t sing, dance, or perform when needed.
Repetitive and/or Restricted Behavior
Additionally, a kid with ASD may engage in repetitive behavior, such as lining up toys and becoming upset when the order is changed. He may also keep saying words or phrases, such as echoing, repeatedly, or playing with toys in the same way.
The autistic child gets upset by minor changes to routine and demonstrates obsessive interests. He also follows strict conventions and patterns and gets anxious when they are disrupted.
Also, the autistic child engages in self-stimulatory behaviors, such as hand flapping, body rocking, spinning in circles, or displaying unusual sensory reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, looks, and textures.
Aside from affected social skills and repetitive behavior, children with ASD have their health, learning, growth, and development affected. Here are some of the symptoms:
- Delayed language, movement, and cognitive skills.
- Hyperactive, impulsive, or inattentive behavior that affects learning capability.
- Unusual mood or emotional reactions, anxiety, stress, or excessive worry and shows either a lack of fear or more fear than expected.
- Health issues such as epilepsy or seizure disorder, unusual sleeping and eating habits leading to gastrointestinal problems such as constipation.
Collaborating with Specialists and Therapists For Autism
Current autism spectrum disorder (ASD) treatments aim to alleviate symptoms that interfere with daily activities and quality of life. ASD affects each child differently. Children with ASD are unique —distinct advantages and challenges.
Therefore, treatment plans for children with ASD involve a collaboration of the pediatrician with various healthcare providers.
This strategy concerns with changing behaviors by comprehending what occurs before and after the behavior. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) encourages desired behaviors and discourages undesirable ones. Progress is being monitored and measured.
The two ABA teaching styles are Discrete Trial Training (DTT) and Pivotal Response Training (PRT).
Discrete Trial Training (DTT) uses step-by-step instructions to instill a desired behavior or response. Lessons are broken down into basic components, and desired responses and behaviors are rewarded. Unwanted responses and behaviors are ignored.
Pivotal Response Training (PRT) occurs in a natural setting rather than a clinic. This aims to help people improve a few "pivotal skills" to help them learn many other skills. Initiating communication with others is one example of a critical skill.
This strategy concentrates on improving specific developmental skills, such as language or physical abilities, or on a wider scale of interconnected developmental abilities. Behavioral approaches are frequently combined with this approach.
Speech and Language Therapy
Assists individuals in improving their understanding and use of speech and language. Some ASD patients communicate verbally. Others may use signs, gestures, pictures, or an electronic communication device.
Offers skills that allow the patient to function as independently as possible. Dressing, eating, bathing, and relating to others are skills.
Treatments for education are provided in a classroom setting. An example is the TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication-Handicapped Children) Approach.
This strategy greatly benefits patients with consistency and visual learning. Teachers change the classroom setup to enhance academic and other results. Daily schedules, for instance, are written down or illustrated, then displayed in plain sight.
Learning stations have set boundaries. Visual cues or hands-on demonstrations can supplement verbal instructions.
This therapy increases social competence and fosters close relationships. Parents or peer mentors are involved in this strategy.
- Developmental, Individual Differences, and Relationship-Based Model
Also known as Floor Time, encourages parents and therapists to follow their child's interests to increase communication opportunities.
- Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) model
This involves exercises to improve the patient’s desire, interest, and capacity to engage in interpersonal interactions.
- Social Stories
This gives brief explanations of what to anticipate in social situations.
- Social Skills Groups
Gives the patient the chance to practice social skills in a controlled setting.
Medications can’t resolve ASD symptoms although co-occurring symptoms can be treated. For instance, medication can manage excessive energy, difficulty concentrating, or self-destructive tendencies such as head banging and hand biting.
Medication may treat medical conditions such as seizures, sleep disorders, stomach and other gastrointestinal issues, and also co-occurring psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression.
Before using this approach, consult a doctor with experience treating patients with ASD for both prescription and OTC medications. Closely monitor the patient’s responses to ensure unfavorable side effects don’t outweigh the positive effects.
People with ASD use this approach to manage anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. One strategy that emphasizes understanding the relationships between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors is cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT).
In CBT, the patient and therapist jointly decide on goals before the patient changes how they think about a situation to change how they react.
Complementary and Alternative Treatments
Some people, including parents, employ therapies that don't fall under any category. These procedures are referred to as complementary and alternative and are frequently used in conjunction with conventional methods.
These include a specialized diet, herbal supplements, chiropractic adjustments, art therapy, and mindfulness and relaxation techniques. Before beginning on any these treatment, patients and their families should always consult their doctor.
The Healthcare System for Autism Services
Many kids with behavioral issues or developmental delays aren’t detected as early as possible. Hence, the assistance these kids need to succeed in social and academic settings, such as school, home, and community, is also delayed.
Significant delays and missed intervention opportunities may have occurred by the time the ASD symptoms were discovered. So, a child with ASD benefit from services if they receive them as soon as possible!
Early Intervention Services for Ages 0-3 years
Early intervention aids in developing critical skills among kids up to 3 years old. Services include therapy to support the child's speech, mobility, and social skills development. A doctor’s referral isn’t required to request for an evaluation and avail the services.
If you believe your child has ASD or another developmental issue, consult a doctor immediately. However, a formal ASD diagnosis isn’t needed to avail treatment for particular symptoms, such as speech therapy for language delays
Even though early intervention is crucial, it’s still beneficial to avail the services at any age.
Special Education Services for Ages 3-22 years
Starting at age 3, children with disabilities, including those with ASD, may be eligible for services through the local educational system. An Individualized Education Plan (IEP), AKA 504 plan, is commonly used for children with ASD.
Even with no formal ASD diagnosis, the child is eligible to avail of the services even before officially starting school!
Empowering Parents to Advocate for Their Children With Special Needs
Every parent wants to provide for their children in the best possible ways. It takes commitment to be the best advocate for a child with autism. And this task may be even more challenging when your child has a mental or physical condition.
Here are a few tips and guides on how parents can support their autistic child:
Knowledgeable parents can advocate for their kids with more assurance. Learn more about issues related to autism, and find out the various ways it impacts kids. Consult with experts to learn about the clinical aspects and their observations.
Pay close attention to your children and act on parental intuition.
Know Your Rights
Children whose parents support them in school enjoy lots of advantages. You must know your rights, as parents, to ensure your children get the best services and accommodations! Without this knowledge, kids can haphazardly fall through the cracks.
Undoubtedly, schools have good intentions but due to many students to account for, your kid with special needs might be overlooked. Hence, it’s the role of parents to be actively supporting their special child in school.
Being the best advocate for your autistic child requires clear and effective communication. For some parents, intense feelings can occasionally cloud their judgment and obstruct communication.
Clear and frequent communication avoids misunderstandings and frustration.
Special needs are accompanied by a ton of paperwork. Keeping up with a child's needs who has autism requires keeping track of everything from psychiatric assessments to diagnostic reports, and IEPs.
Consider bringing the necessary documentation when consulting with doctors, insurance companies, and educational personnel.
Find a support group with advocacy for children with ASD or other special needs. With a support group, you exchange concepts and ideas on best practices with those who look after their children. This kind of assistance is something that’s beyond priceless.
Your Pediatrician Is Your Ally to Support Your Child with ASD
Parents are the best advocate for their kid with special needs. For professional guidance, always reach out to your pediatrician. They are equipped with the training and expertise to assist you in the development needs of your child.
Being the best advocate for your special needs child requires coordination among medical experts. It might be so much work, but rewarding for you and your child.
Omega Pediatrics can help you with that. If you think your child may need some help, you can always consult us so that we can treat your child as early as possible.
Your pediatrician at Omega Pediatrics is your ally when it comes to the healthcare needs of your children, much more to your kid with autism.