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6 tips for parents to deal with autistic children

Coping with autism needs strength and courage both for you and your baby. Here's what you can do do give your baby a better quality of life.

Written by Debjani Arora |Updated : February 23, 2015 6:08 PM IST

Mother and baby World Autism Awareness Day is on 2nd April 2014.

Even something as trivial as fever can make parents go into a hyperactive mode looking for a solution to provide requisite respite to their baby. Think of the plight of the parents who have babies with some neurological disorder like autism and have to see their little one grow and live with the condition for the rest of her life. More distressing is the fact that even with their best efforts, one can't promise a cure but the silver lining is that there is still treatment to help deal with this condition to offer a better quality of life to autistic children. Here's what a parent of an autistic child should know:

Pick up the signs early: It is better that you know the signs that can point to a neurological disorder like autism so that you can reach out for help soon. 'Early detection is the key to treat autism in children so that with therapy and treatment one can help the brain to mould and be responsive to the social stimulus. With a mature brain it can take time for a child to respond well to the therapies and treatment,' says Dr Pradnya Gadgil, consultant pediatric neurology and special interest in epilepsy, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital. Parents should be attentive and look for these early delayed developmental signs:

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  • If by six to nine months your baby fails to make eye contact with you.
  • If after one year of age your baby fails to recognize or respond to her name when called for.
  • Your baby just plays by herself and is not responsive to you or doesn't care much for your attention.
  • Even after the first birthday your baby shows no gesture of verbal or sign communication. 'At times a baby can have delayed speech put will start to point to toys and things that she would like to lay hands on. If she doesn't chances are it indicates a neurological disorder like autism,' says Dr Gadgil.
  • Even after 18 months your baby fails to show any meaningful gesture or throws blank expressions when you talk or try to communicate.

If you notice any of these signs in your baby talk to a pediatrician and get a detailed status on your baby's neurological wellbeing. Get a consultation done with a pediatric psychologist to evaluate on the same.

Limit use of audio visual devices: If you know that your baby has autism it is even more necessary to limit usage of all the electronic devices like the smart phones, iPhones, iPads or even television viewing. 'These devices are known to hamper mental development in a child. These devices are passive medium of entertainment and don't help in cognitive development of a baby. Instead invest in toys that are interactive like push button toys that have lights, music, rhymes for specific ones. These interactive ones can help in stimulating the brain,' says Dr Gadgil.

Keep off processed foods: Don't allow or overload your baby's plate with junk or processed foods. 'The chemicals present in the processed and can foods can have an effect on the neurological development of the babies suffering from autism,' informs Dr Gadgil.

Encourage conversations: Talk to your baby and do that often. 'Human interaction is more necessary in children suffering from autism. Tell stories, rhymes or just talk to your baby. This provides a lot of stimulation to the baby and helps to encourage social behaviour,' informs Dr Gadgil. Though you cannot expect a total change in behaviour and better communication skills in your baby soon even with your best attempts, but don't give up. These actions will do her a great deal of good to help her brain take in the command albeit slowly.

Allow the child to socialize: The best way to help in brain stimulation of your special child is by helping her socialize more. 'Get your child admitted to a play school where enough emphasis is added to cognitive development using toys of different colours, shapes and make believe games. All this helps foster better brain development and cope with the disorder. For same reason also take your child to birthday parties and other dos to help garner social skills and better communication,' informs Dr Gadgil. An autistic child may have certain triggers which can result in violent behaviour sound, music, colour. While it is good to keep track of the triggers and avoid them, you should also talk to your practitioner to know how to help your child overcome their dreadful effects. This will help you manage your baby better at social gatherings and public outings.

Practice the therapy at home: The best way to treat autism is with help of therapies and not medications. Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) and Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) are amongst the most effective types of therapies for autism. Not only the child but also the caregiver needs to learn the techniques and nuances of the therapy. 'The mother or the active parent who is supposed to take care of the kid should practise the techniques at least four to five times a day to encourage alteration in behaviour and help in skills development,' says Dr Gadgil.

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