Leadership (Abuja)

5 January 2013

Nigeria: Dealing With an Autistic Child

If a baby is does not look at his parent when they talk to him, if does not try to play games that other babies his age are playing, if he rarely smiles, if he points to things when he wants them instead of telling his parent, if he does the same thing over and over, if he has extreme temper tantrums, then that child is autistic.

It is important to note that one or two characteristics alone do not mean that your child is autistic. But taken together they should raise questions and prompt a professional evaluation by a specialist. MILLIE IBE writes on how to manage kids with such traits.

Autism is defined as a developmental disorder that appears in the first 3 years of life, and affects the brain's normal development of social and communication skills. It is not just a single disorder but one of five different neurological disorders that fall under the pervasive development disorder category.

The exact cause of autism is unknown but researches and studies of the condition have shown that a number of possible causes may be responsible but they are not proven. These include: digestive tract changes, vaccine sensitivity, diet, inability of the body to properly use vitamin and minerals and mercury poisoning.

Autism occurs more often in boys than girls, and can affect any child regardless of age or income of parent. It is seen as a mysterious disorder with unknown gains. Though believed to be caused by abnormal brain structure, parent of an autistic child might not find it easy to cope with their child's disability. But there are guides to follow to help the parent of an autistic child.

Doctor Prince Ibeabuchi, a physician at the Enugu Specialist Teaching Hospital, said autism is not as bad as we see it, but when the right things are not done at the right time, then it feels like you can't just do anything.

Parent of an autistic child, should ensure that they create good communication style between them and their child and be patient with the child. They should not make the child feel useless and enforce energy where necessary, he said.

When your child is autistic, it is usually a lifetime disorder. While there is no cure for this condition, Ibeabuchi says treatment such as behaviour /communication therapies and medicines can help to control symptoms.

Patience: autistic children can seem hard to control, understand and discipline. It is true that autistic children have a harder time understanding depending on the severity of the disability but even the most challenging children can learn to behave given effective discipline. In this case, parent should figure out what the child responds to and what the child respects.

Good communication: The fact that your child is autistic does not mean you can not or should not have good communication with your child. He is not incapable of understanding because of his disability. So he requires certain types of interaction in order to get him to behave. Figure out what type of responses provoke positive behaviour and responses out of your child.

Energy: Do not be afraid to discipline your autistic child. Many parents of normal children are afraid to discipline them and parents of autistic children usually follow this trend to the extreme. Many parents feel as though an autistic child's bad behaviour is a response to their disability and not of their own volition.

Warnings

1 - It is important to be consistent, like any child, an autistic child will find weaknesses in their caretaker.

2- It is important to be patient, bad behaviour is often associated with frustration from not being able to communicate.

3- Always discuss your methods and suggestions with medical professionals so that both of you can develop a consistent method of training your child.

4- Don't give up.

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