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Home Based Tools for Children with Autism

The recent research by Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2018, estimates that 1 out of 59 children born are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASD can be diagnosed in children coming from any race, religion or socio-economic background. However, the increase in the number of children coming under the Spectrum does not match the number of good and reliable intervention centers catering to the needs of these kids. Sometimes if there is a good intervention center available, because of the sheer increase in number your child may have to wait to get admission. In such a scenario, rather than waiting some practical home-based remedial measure can be done with the child.

1. Physical movement: Physical movement does not mean physical exercise especially when we are talking about children. There are countless fun ways in which you can get your child moving. If the child enjoys doing the activity, he/she would be motivated to do it more and the positive effect would be seen in all areas of development. Some fun ways for exercise for children could be getting them to crawl while making them play, walking with them, clay modeling etc. Many children are able to do activity more by coping. Therefore, it would a good idea to make different easy simple postures and let them copy. In most situation sunlight and fresh air makes a difference. Therefore, try and take your child outside in park.

2. Nutrition: Making a child with Autism eat can be quite a challenge! They generally have strong likes and dislikes in food. Some children could be sensitive to the taste, smell, color and texture of food. They may limit themselves to one kind of food and avoid the other kind completely. This may cause a nutrition deficit in the child. Some ways in which as parents you can tackle this issue are –

· Being prepared – As you understand ASD more and more, you would become prepared for the fact that however much you have made the meal fancy, the child may simply refuse to touch it. Its ok! The goal of the first step should be to make the child familiar with food as much as possible. For example, to take your child to the market if possible, while buying raw food. To talk about the food item in general way. Getting familiar with the food item in a low-pressure positive surrounding can eventually help the child to eat the food.

· Meal times are a routine – A child with Autism likes to follow a routine. It is the same when it comes to eating. It would be helpful to make the meals as predictable and routine as possible. The child would be less stressed regarding eating if his/her meal is served on the same time every day. It is also a possibility that it not much about the food but the environment around the meal that troubles your child. Some example could be light in the kitchen or texture of the dining table and chair. It would be a good idea to let your child pick a place to eat himself/herself.

· Seek guidance – As elder we have a general knowledge which food could be good for children. When it comes to a child with Autism, the food that he/she likes and added nutrition becomes the challenge! To make this pursuit easier, it would be beneficial to consult a registered dietician or nutritionist. Based on how your child eats, the expert can help you identify the nutritional value in food, help you figure out supplements and help guide how to keep your child to eat well and live healthy.

3. Sensory activities: A child who comes under the Spectrum see the world around in a very different way. While assimilating the information by their senses such as touch, smell, hearing taste and smell, their brain often works in a different manner. While they may be extremely fascinated by patterns of light on wall, they may get extremely frightened by certain sounds which others don’t even notice. Like whistle of a pressure cooker. There are very simple fun activities in which you can help the child deal with this at home. Some of the play activities could be like rolling on a soft big sized ball, playing with sand and bubbles, clay molding of different shapes and sizes, shredded paper in a huge basket, water painting on paper. The main goal of the activity should be that it is simple and in a room which has as less other distractions as possible.

4. Visual Schedule: Multiple instructions with numerous repetitions of these instructions are required with a child with ASD. To make this process of comprehension and remembering a bit simple for the child, set of pictures or words written on cards can be used to communicate. This process is known as visual scheduling. These pictures and cards can include series of activities or steps to help the child understand and manage their day to day activities. The only detail to take care while making these cards is that they should be divided and correspond to the time of the day. Like morning cards could brushing teeth, getting dressed and so on. The cards or pictures can also be posted on the walls of the areas where the child frequently goes. For example, cards or pictures related to toileting should around that area.

There is no one particular way which needs to be followed. The advantage with home based activities is that they can be changed and adjusted as per the response of the child. Just find one that resonates and suits your child.

Written By: -

Isha Singh - Clinical Psychologist

Director - Clinical Services, Ananya Child Development Centre.

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