Autism is a complex disorder that can also refer to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The general signs include difficulties, to varying degrees, in social interaction, and various forms of communication. Repetitive behaviors are also characteristics of autism. In 2013, allegedly, all various forms of autism were merged into one diagnosis under the DSM-5 diagnostic manual. The other forms of autism were used to differentiate the differences among children and people with autism to direct individual oriented treatments. Parenting a child with autism can be a challenge, but kidshealth describes a method one couple was able to use in accepting the diagnosis and embracing it.
Asperger syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) are the different subtypes of autism. All of these forms have their own characteristics and concerns for parents, and even though the diagnoses were merged under the DSM, unique traits should be stressed for parents raising children with special needs.
Childhood disintegrative disorder, also known as Heller’s syndrome, is a rare and unique disorder that might be referred to as a form of psychosis. Children with this condition are observed to be average in development and behavior until they reach two years of age when there is a severe loss of social skills, among other deficits. Unlike other forms of autism, the loss in social skills is much more dramatic than other forms of the condition.
Parents, Paige and Iain, describe being in a state of shock, but after a couple of weeks the mother was able to take a step back and observe her son for who he was. Born autistic, there was no way around it. The child, named Loch, had obsessions with putting objects in order, and presented an inability to express himself like a normal child would. Paige and Iain talked about feeling angry that they gave birth to such a beautiful child, and who was so loving, but was trapped in his own mind with this disability. Iain and Paige realized they could not fail their son and give up, they had to overcome the fact and embrace their son for the person he was.
The parents met with the local school board and got their son into special education. Iain and Paige stressed how important it is for a child with autism to receive proper education specialized for them. The teachers must understand how an autistic brain works. Children with autism allegedly cannot be told certain things like, “do not push that child because they will fall down and get hurt,” rather a teacher must say, “don’t push,” in its simplest form.
Although the parents are involved in the child-rearing aspect, other methods of instruction are available for a child with autism. Counseling is another part of education that should be available for autistic children once a week. Once Loch was enrolled in these courses and began attendance, his eye contact improved along with language and communication. Loch’s imaginative ability was drastically improved as well through these courses, which was an ability that was nonexistent a year before counseling began.
Paige and Iain talk about how Loch’s education and counseling enabled the family to communicate and understand their child. Through experience, the parents were able to fully comprehend Loch’s world. They currently understand things about him that would have otherwise made life terrifying for everyone in the family. For instance, their son does not like surprises, rather, he prefers routines.
Autistic children should also work on expressing their feelings, and be given assistance in understanding their own feelings. Paige and Iain used a lot of exaggerated facial expressions and emotions to reach Loch on his own level. If Loch were to hit his brother with a pillow, even if his brother was fine with it, the parent would say “Oh, no, now he is sad.”
Siblings of an autistic child should receive equal attention. Iain and Paige dedicate one-on-one time with each of their sons. If parents did this routinely, it could cut down on bitter or jealous feelings toward the child with autism since that child is in need of so much more instruction and attention. Even through parenting a child with autism continues to be a challenge, understanding the disorder and methods involved truly helps daily life as a family.
By Lindsey Alexander