Written by Rhiannon Thompson
It's important for children to understand what autism is and how it affects those around them. Many children of all ages across the UK have autism. Educating children about autism should be done in a way where your child learns how children with autism may have difficulties with social communication, relationship building and hypersensitivity to stimuli. In our latest article, we discuss the different emotional and physical autism factors to educate your child about.
What is autism?
Autism, also known as autism spectrum condition, refers to a broad range of conditions associated with specific behaviours, including difficulties with social skills, recurring behaviours, speech and non-verbal communication.
According to the National Autistic Society, approximately 700,000 people in the UK live with autism. Usually, signs of autism appear between the ages of 2 and 3. In some instances, there can be delays in symptoms showing and sometimes symptoms can show as early as 18 months. Some research shows that an early diagnosis can lead to positive outcomes later in life for those living with autism.
Educating yourself about autism
It’s important to know about and understand what autism is before talking to your children about it. Understanding what autism is and how it affects children means you will be able to support your child to have meaningful relationships with autistic children. The Government has released a national strategy for autistic children, young people and adults which you can view here.
There isn’t just one type of autism
Autism is a vast spectrum. When you're explaining autism to your child, it’s important to tell them there isn’t just one type of autism.
Autism is often referred to as a spectrum condition because of the range of ways it can impact people and the different levels of support they may need throughout their lives. It’s important to note that autism is not a learning disability, but around 4 in 10 autistic people have a learning disability.
Autistic children find routines helpful
Whist being flexible is an important life skill, it can be challenging for children with autism. They struggle when their routine has changed, and it can cause them anxiety and confusion. Providing autistic children with pre warnings and clear instructions can help prepare them for changes.
Autism processing time
When communicating to children with autism, use short sentences with simple language so they can digest the conversation and fully understand what you have said to them. It’s important to give them enough time to understand what you have said.
Children with autism are literal
Children with autism are literal thinkers. Figurative language such as ‘as right as rain’ can confuse them. They don’t absorb information the same way we do, so give them time and explain what you mean in more detail.
Give support when in social situations
We have all been taught social skills growing up. Social skills guide our interactions and how we behave. People with autism can struggle to build these skills, which can result in them having difficulty knowing how to react in social situations. A few things to help develop a child with autism social skills are:
● Explain things using simple language and be direct when speaking to them
● Support them in enhancing their communication skills and sensory integration
● Teach them behaviours that show good social skills, such as smiling
Sensory issues are common for children with autism
Children with autism have very sensitive senses. A sound that may not be noticeable to you could distract an autistic child and confuse them. Textures and certain smells can sometimes cause them to become frustrated and react negatively. Sometimes, overstimulation can cause children with autism to feel overwhelmed or anxious.
Stereotypic behaviours may be used when the child is excited, bored or stressed
Depending on how the child is feeling, they may react in a certain way. Such as stimming. Stimming is a type of behaviour that is repetitive actions or movements. The behaviours may seem odd to others, but it’s important to remember autistic children have difficulty recognising and managing their emotions and reactions.
How to explain autism to your child
Teaching your children about autism is like teaching them about race and disabilities. You teach them the importance of being kind and empathetic towards everyone and understanding that no person is the same and we all have our own differences that make us individual. The more we learn about each other and accept people for who they are, the more inclusive and accepting society will become. Every child is different and deserves to reach their full potential and grow relationships with people around them. For more information about autism, click here. If you would like to see more of our autism-focused articles, click here.
To learn more about the learning disability and autism service we provide to adults and children in their own homes and local communities, view our website here.
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