Autism is a complex developmental disorder that effects a person’s social skills, verbal and non-verbal communication, and their ability to play and learn in the same way as other children. As a result of these differences, children with autism often struggle in social settings, which can be difficult for parents to witness. However, it is possible to build a strong relationship with your child as long as you are patient, love them, and work to understand their needs.
Here are 11 of some of the challenges parents face when raising children with Autism and Special Needs
1. Challenges with communication
Communication is one of the hardest challenges a child with autism and special needs faces. A recent study showed that they had higher rates of delays in language and communication skills They may have trouble expressing their needs, and they may not readily understand their teachers or classmates. It can be hard to tell if a child is upset or content because they may not express how they're feeling the same way as other children. It’s a good idea to invest in speech-language therapy and teaching your child to communicate.
2. Challenges with eating and drinking
Children with autism often experience challenges when it comes to eating and drinking. Eight out of ten children with Autism struggle with eating regularly, and they could be as much as three times more likely to be classified as underweight than their typically developing siblings. This is because our children are often sensitive to sensory information like texture, flavor, smell, sound, and sight and hence can result in difficulty in chewing and drinking, among other things.
3. Challenges with being out in public in Children with Autism and Special Needs
Some autistic children find it hard to cope in public environments and need to be accompanied by an adult. To make things easier for your child, avoiding loud, crowded spaces and you could look for a sensory-friendly space with quiet, low-lit environments. Some other few things you can do to help is to create skills in the comfort of your own home, then gradually take them out of the house. It is important to have a plan in place to combat the sensory overload that they feel. Create a routine for them before you leave home, and make sure they have an item that has a specific meaning for them, such as a scarf with a specific scent. Have a special word to help describe their feeling.
4. Challenges with sleeping
Children with sensory issues often have trouble sleeping. They are often unable to sleep when they want to or for as long as they want. They may have a difficult time catching up on sleep, leading to daytime fatigue and making interactions with others even more difficult. The issue can be because of sensitivities to noise and light, difficulties with transitions from sleep to wakefulness, or difficulty with sensory experiences. Some sleep issues can be managed with things like sleep schedules and sleep hygiene.
5. Challenges with school and education
Many children with autism and other special needs face challenges when it comes to school and education. This can make it difficult for them to function in everyday life. Some children refuse to go to school, other struggle to learn, while others have a hard time making friends in a common environment. Parents are often the best advocates for children with special needs. They are in the best position to provide empathy and understanding. Parents need to work in tandem with schools that offer a curriculum that takes into account the child disabilities and has a focus on inclusive education.
6. Challenges with hygiene
It can be difficult to keep children with special needs clean. They may have trouble participating in activities like brushing their teeth or take a shower, and this can be because they don't like the way it tastes or how it makes them feel. Challenges here may also include forgetting to use the toilet or change her clothes. It’s important to set a schedule for these tasks and make these activities fun making it more like a game so children won't reject them. Your child may also need your help to wash and dry her hands or to use the toilet, depending on her individual needs.
7. Challenges in keeping a schedule
Kids with special needs have a hard time with a schedule, which can make it difficult to maintain one. They often have a hard time understanding the passage of time because they don’t learn the same way that we do. This affects everything from getting up in the morning to sleep routines and is quite stressful for both the child and the parents. It’s crucial to engage with your family members about what’s hard for them and to find ways of accommodating these issues. Kids need predictable environments, routines, and consistency to feel secure and able to learn and behave.
8. Challenges with bullying, teasing and making friends
Children with autism and special needs are often bullied and teased by their peers. They also struggle and have a hard time, as many children do, with making friends. They often experience difficulties in social interactions and don't make friends as easily as their peers do. They may find it a challenge to understand the social cues of others because they don't instinctively understand facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. They may also have difficulty understanding irony, sarcasm, and other social nuances. It's not always easy to teach kids how to make friends, but having a strategy can make it easier. Ensure that they are able to talk about their challenges and to understand that they are not alone.
9. Challenges with doctors, specialists, and hospitals
Challenges with doctors, specialists, and hospitals for children with Autism and Special Needs are very common. It is hard to find out where to go, who to trust and what to expect. Without any experience, it is hard to know what to anticipate and what to do. One challenge is the number of specialists you need to see -speech therapy, occupational therapy, applied behavioral analysis, audiology, just to name a few and then there’s also the complicated scheduling of appointments. It can be difficult to coordinate appointments with several specialists.
Speak to some of the parents in your area to learn about some of the hospitals and doctors they recommend. The more you know, the more informed you will be about what is going on with the child. Learn your rights about medical care.
10. Challenges with Meltdowns
Children with autism and special needs often have meltdowns. They can be really hard on the whole family. They can be caused by a wide range of triggers: hunger, change of routine, frustrations with peers or siblings, fatigue, difficulty adapting to an environment, or sensory overload. It’s important to realize that meltdowns are a form of coping and that they will happen unpredictably. You need to be patient and careful to not make things worse for your child. It\'s important to be consistent with your child to teach them how to deal with these challenging situations. It’s also important to have a plan for how to deal with these meltdowns. It's important to treat the situation like a teachable moment.
11. Challenges with family and friends
Children with autism and special needs may require a lot of work, and that may put an extra strain on your relationships with friends and family. You need to remember that the needs of your child should be your priority and your family and friends should understand that. But, it can be tough to find the balance. You should be careful bringing up issues with your family and friends - they may feel guilty. Keep the openness and trust at the forefront of your dialogue and over time it may become easier. Don't be afraid to reach out to your friends and family. Let them know what you're going through. Let them help. It's not their responsibility to care for your kids, but they can make your life a lot easier.
We would love to hear your views. Please leave your comments below
If you have a child with Autism in your life, be it your own child, a relative, a friend's child, or a student, then Magic and Meltdowns is just the book waiting for you to pick it up.
It is the journey of the young aunt of an Autistic child Emma, who is also a part caretaker and Godmother to her. There are not merely words to read in this book, but emotions to feel, experiences to teach you, and a whole lot of research that will answer many of your questions about Autism.
Click here to buy