How to treat an autistic child? 6 key ideas

Do you have a boy or girl diagnosed with autism in class and not sure how to deal with them? Are you a therapist and need advice in this area? Do you have a friend or family member with autism (or your own child) and would like to know how to treat them to improve their relationship with him / her and make you both feel comfortable?

In this article we will see a series of simple guidelines to answer the question of how to treat a child with autismIn order to build on your strengths, improve your well-being and learn both in the process.

    What characterizes children with autism?

    Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) encompass, as the name suggests, different disorders of the same spectrum. Classically, they have been considered two large groups of people with autism: those with high functioning (Asperger’s syndrome) and those with more impaired functioning (The “classics” with autism). This second group is the one who, in addition to AME, has been diagnosed with an associated intellectual disability.

    In this article, we will focus on the second group and mention some guidelines on how to treat a child with autism.

    Before discussing how to treat a child with autism, in order to improve their quality of life and interactions, we will look at the central features / symptoms of this diagnosis, which many of these children may exhibit. for that we are based on the diagnostic criteria of DSM-5 (Diagnostic manual of mental disorders).

    We believe that it is necessary to know the characteristics and the way of being (although later each child is a world, logically, and has its own characteristics), to be able to understand why we must act in a way and not of another with them / is.

    1. Difficulties in interaction and social communication

    The first characteristic of children with ASD is a marked difficulty (or deficit) in interacting with others in a “normative” way. This is explained by a deficit of emotional reciprocity (For example through abnormal social approaches, problems of sharing interests and emotions, etc.

    2. Repetitive and restricted models

    The second symptom is the existence of one or more repetitive and restricted patterns, which have to do with: behaviors, interests, activities, actions … How does this manifest itself? For example through stereotypes, echolalia, object shots, rituals

    3. Onset at an early developmental age

    In ASD, the above symptoms usually appear at a very early stage of development (From the few years of life, in the most serious cases).

    4. Symptoms cause interference

    Finally, the last criterion to be able to diagnose a case of autism is that the symptoms interfere in their daily life, in any of its spheres: at school, socially, emotionally …

    How to treat an autistic child and why?

    Regarding the question of how to treat an autistic child, the first thing we will say is something pretty obvious, but to note: simply, we will treat them like the rest of the boys and girls in the fundamental, With normality, respect and empathy.

    In other words, we don’t have to treat them any differently, but it is true that we can act in certain ways to make things easier (or better) for them in many ways; that they do not feel overwhelmed, that they feel understood, valued, etc. We can also act in a certain way to make them feel more comfortable, and so that they can strengthen their full potential.

    In other words, it is a question of bringing a “plus” to their well-being, their quality of life and their ability to adapt, not to treat them in a discriminatory manner (neither in the positive sense nor in the negative). Outraged, it should be mentioned that many of these children can lead practically normal lives (Or regulations), especially those who do not have an additional intellectual disability.

    So, the guidelines we offer on how to treat an autistic child are as follows.

    1. Act with empathy

    The first guideline which is quite obvious and general. It is therefore a guideline which can be generalized to all children, and even to adults. Treating people with empathy is just common sense.

    So the first model follows common sense; How are we going to treat them if not? Empathy, try to understand how they feel at all times to adapt our behavior to each situation.

      2. Anticipate situations or events

      The second, more specific guideline includes the following: anticipate the events of the day, the changes that may have occurred

      This will help reduce the levels of anxiety that children with autism often experience, from “not knowing what’s going to happen” (as one of their characteristics is that they are usually quite rigid and also need to be cured. planning, as we will see in the next point).

      3.provide routines

      Due to the characteristics of children with ASD, routines are the key to not feeling anxious about what is going to happen (Or what won’t happen), and put your world and your mind in order (as we’ll see later as well).

      So you can implement this guideline on how to treat an autistic child by developing schedules and routines with him, for example through a sign or map (and having him hang in his room or classroom ).).

      4. Use alternative communication systems (if necessary)

      Remember that up to 75% of children with autism (not high-level autism, Asperger’s syndrome) are also diagnosed with an intellectual disability, which can be mild, moderate or severe.

      In this sense, there is a group of children who also have no language (do not speak), but communication. This is why in these cases we will have to use alternative communication systems, such as pictograms, Portable communicators, virtual keyboards … It all depends on the type of child and his characteristics.

        5. Structure your activities

        Whether you work with him (as a therapist, psychologist, educator …) or if you are his father or mother, or a loved one, it can be very useful for you to structure the activities that you do together.

        They, in addition to needing routine and anticipation, they need guidelines, specific guidelines, timetables, structure, planning… It helps them structure their sometimes a little chaotic mind, as well as their world.

        6. It greatly reinforces your positive behavior.

        It is also important reinforce appropriate behaviors so that they increase in intensity, duration and frequency.

        This is why behavioral programs (or behavioral therapy, like the ABA method, Applied Behavior Analysis) are very effective. These also include the use of behavioral strategies to reduce their inappropriate behaviors (eg extinction, cost of response …).

        Bibliographical references:

        • April, D., Delgado, C. and Vigara, A. (2010). Augmentative and alternative communication. Reference Guide. CEAPAT.
        • American Psychiatric Association -APA- (2014). DSM-5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Madrid: Panamericana.
        • Belloch, A., Sandín, B. and Ramos, F. (2010). Manual of psychopathology. Volumes I and II. Madrid: McGraw-Hill.
        • Mules, F., Ros-Cervera, G., Millá, MG Etchepareborda, M., Abda, L. and Téllez, M. (2010). Intervention models in autistic children. Rev Neurol, 50 (Suppl. 3): S77-S84.

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