Autism at Home

Autism is a wide-ranging spectrum of disorders that can affect children from all walks of life. Symptoms vary from one individual to another, but sometimes they overlap, making each autism spectrum unique. Often parents have to work alongside developmental and behavioral needs specialists to address the symptoms and to prepare the individual for what lies ahead. To maximize results, however, certain home activities can be infused into the procedures and build on exercises done during therapy.

Responsible Parenting
As responsible parents, continuing the activities being taught and done during formal therapy sessions can be of great help. This requires a certain degree of keen observation and focus on the child’s core deficits. Three of the most common sources of frustration among children with autism are language impairment, over-sensitivity or lack thereof, and behavioral dilemmas. Learning what “triggers” their meltdowns and what makes them “happy” and calm can tremendously enhance progress. The key is to work closely with professionals and keep your line of communication open with them to expand the highway of possibilities for your child.

Here are a few delightful and educational activities to try:

Let’s Get Physical
Gross motor skills development is essential to children with autism. Some fun activities that will help them develop such skills include: playing in a pool; maneuvering through a simple obstacle course; having a disco party; sandbox playing; and working out or aerobics for children. The key here is for you (and perhaps other siblings) to join in the fun to help keep them safe while also developing social integration.

Unleashing the Artist Within
Some children with autism possess latent artistic talents waiting to be tapped. Your “little fidgety worm” might be the next Michelangelo or Van Gogh. Engaging him in activities like finger painting, clay sculpting, drawing with dry-erase markers, photography, collage, and working with mosaics. These will help themlearn about colors, textures, and other art elements and encourage more active sensory integration development.

Hit the Floor
Floor-time activities such as reading books, listening to music, playing with toys, working with play dough, crumpling and tearing of paper, playing in a sandbox or a ball pool, are not just fun and entertaining but can also teach children with autism certain life skills and can improve behavioral, communication, and social issues. Subsequently, keeping their focus on these activities will lessen emotional triggers as they can easily get “fixated” on the “fun” side of the activity. The key here is to infuse story-telling and create meaningful interactions while having fun.

A Beautiful Mind
Mind games allow a child with ASD to think and grow. Guessing games, puppet shows, trivia, I-spy games, box o’ beans, and many more are just some of the usual games that both parent and child can enjoy. Visiting museums and places of interest can also make your child expand his knowledge of the world in which he’s living. With a hi-tech society, finding apps and software programs such as Starfall, Super Why!, Pop Math, Agnitus, Fruit Ninja, and many more can also prove helpful in shaping your child’s beautiful mind.

By Pamela Bryson-Weaver, author of Living Autism Day by Day: Daily Reflections and Strategies to Give You Hope and Courage. Bryson-Weaver, whose youngest son has autism, is the past president of the Autism Society in New Brunswick.www.livingautismnow.com