Autism is a lifetime disorder and not a disease. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a spectrum, so the clinical features range from mild impairments in social skills in some people to severe intellectual disability or sometimes epilepsy in others. Scientists have not been able to figure out why there is such a wide variation in ASD symptoms though they have identified genes associated with ASD.
People with ASD need care throughout their life. The severity determines the type of care the person with ASD needs. They face challenges in communication and social skills. Emotional and behavioral problems are common in them. Autistic people may not be able to learn things the way others do. They may not react to or interact with others like most of us.
Importance of Care in People with ASD
The most critical challenges that often require a modified approach and care in people with ASD may include:
- Inability to adapt to a new environment, routines, or schedules.
- Lack of understanding or using non-verbal and verbal communication skills
- Sensitive to some noises/ sounds, textures, odors, tastes, and sights
- Trouble expressing or lack of interest in or communicating with other people
- Difficulty in communicating needs
- Inability to understand directions or questions
When caring for people on the spectrum, you should adopt strategies to improve communication, follow a productive daily routine, and ensure continued personal growth.
The support from parents and their loved ones is critical in helping them in their daily routines. It is helpful for their development and care as autistic people struggle with communication and forming a relationship.
Many people with ASD experience trauma symptoms due to the stress and anxiety of being in the world of neurotypical people. The tension may sometimes manifest as self-medication and substance use. Additionally, autistic people often experience co-occurring medical conditions that add to their frustration.
Home Care in Autism
Home care by parents, family members, or professional caregivers is helpful that can benefit people with an autism spectrum disorder. You can personalize the care to provide the best quality of life and independence. Besides providing care, parents can support their child with an autism spectrum disorder to improve communication and life skills. It makes home care the best option for autistic people.
You should also empower the person to reach goals and entice them with awards and appreciation. Ensure that a person with ASD has good mental well-being and physical health.
Understanding how to support them and help them understand what life is like for them is the most critical responsibility for the caregiver and the parents. The care you provide at home must meet the requirements of the person with ASD.
Promote independence and individualized care to encourage them to do things themselves where possible. Developing self-care skills is essential for some people who have sensory differences like a heightened sense of smell or touch. It can make some tasks difficult like washing, bathing, or grooming.
Apart from the medical care and therapies that the person with ASD gets at home, there are simple yet effective tips for taking care of autistic people that make a difference.
The following are some caretaking tips that can help you give a person with autism the proper care.
1.Learn how to communicate with People with Autism
Communication is a challenge for many autistic people. Some people with ASD are even non-verbal. So develop new ways to communicate with them.
People with ASD often develop frustration due to their inability to express and understand people. Therefore, you must speak to people with ASD with respect.
To be more respectful and caring towards people with autism spectrum disorder, adopt the following tips to communicate:
- Use polite and respectful language. Do not assume that autistic people have low cognitive ability.
- Avoid using familiar or personal words or phrases, and keep things respectful and professional.
- Say what you mean, and avoid using metaphors and sarcasm. Autistic people are literal and understand it.
- Take time to listen to them empathetically. Be an active listener, whether the person is expressing feelings or telling a story. Hear what they have to say.
- Wait for the response when you ask a question. Allow time when communicating. People with autism have different speeds of processing information.
- Offer immediate, meaningful and non-judgmental feedback if you notice an inappropriate behavior. Your job is to help autistic learn a better way of doing things.
- Address the person with autism with others in a room or elsewhere. Don’t speak as if the person is not there.
Consider that everyone has a different communication style, even those without autism. When communicating with autistic, speak slowly and get information across in fewer words. Use only specific keywords, and repeat them if required. It often takes time for people with ASD to process them. Do not ask many questions or use figurative language.
Supportive and patient communication with people with autism spectrum goes a long way
Checkout our blog – Functional Communication Training (FCT) in Autism
2. Understand and Respect Boundaries
Defining and maintaining boundaries is helpful when working with autistic people. Not only do you set boundaries, but you also need to understand the boundaries of an autistic person.
Many individuals with autism spectrum disorder may experience sensory stimulation from certain things. They also do not enjoy common physical gestures, like hugs, being too close in proximity, or patting on the back.
Ask for preferences of people with ASD when beginning to work with them. Set boundaries while talking to them.
Setting specific boundaries and expectations might help the autistic feel safe and secure. They can have a better understanding of the daily routine.
Remember that it is not only a person with ASD who should keep boundaries but you also.
3. Keep Things Consistent
People with autism often struggle with a change in routine and environment. If the change in the schedule is unexpected, it might upset them, bring emotional outbursts and anxiety, and throw a tantrum. Many autistics prefer to remain prepared and know what to expect in a new situation.
So try to follow a regular schedule. Taking meals, hygiene practices, and sleeping time should take place at the same time each day. Playtime and work time can also occur on a set schedule.
Try learning more about the person with autism and how consistent they want things to be. Everyone may not prefer the same fixed routine. Some people do not have a problem with the schedule change.
Make a dependable schedule using clocks and visual and digital schedules to keep things consistent. Consistency helps autistics feel independent, secure, and in control. It provides them comfort and reduces anxiety.
Consistency creates peace of mind in autistics.
4. Participate in Emotional Preparation
Any change can be troublesome for people with autism. A new or different therapy, moving to a new home, a trip to an unfamiliar place, and situations or events like the death of a pet or loved one can be overwhelming to them. Unexpected changes may be most traumatic. Unfortunately, you can’t predict or prepare for some life changes.
Being supportive, kind, and patient in such traumatic and troubling situations, matters most with autistic people. Clear communication on changes planned can make a big difference in helping the person to handle the situation.
Tell the person with ASD in advance what change is coming and when to expect it. Explain beforehand why that change is a better opportunity or how it will benefit them.
Practice drives or visits to a new location, countdown calendars, videos, or photographs of the forthcoming activity or the new place are helpful strategies to reduce anxiety in autistics. Promises of rewards for successful completion can be beneficial.
Giving extra time for the transition, and allowing the person to bring comfort items along, will help the person navigate change smoothly.
5. Give Autistic People Personal Space
Some people with autism often overstep personal space. They get too close to others while talking or hugging strangers. Many autistics have trouble with social aspects. They do not like making eye contact or engaging with others due to their inability to understand and respond to social cues while interacting.
Others get overwhelmed by loud conversation or when someone touches, hugs, or shakes hands with them.
It is, therefore, essential to give space to people with ASD. Forcing such people with this level of discomfort may lead to communication or trust issues.
Try understanding their level of discomfort, and let them initiate a hug or a handshake. You can use other methods to greet them or calm stressful situations. Giving a wave, a smile, or saying something complimentary may comfort them.
6. Remain Calm and Patient
When caring for people with autism, patience plays a crucial role. Autistics are dealing with problems, having little control over their emotions, or feeling overwhelmed by sensory inputs. The challenges in social interactions and communication changes happening in daily routines and the environment make them uncomfortable, angry, stressed, and anxious.
During such stressful times speaking softly with them helps a lot. Be calm and patient with them and allow their personal space. Showing them empathy and telling them they are valued and safe can benefit them in tackling stressful situations.
Schedule time for play
Following a structured schedule for playtime helps autistics significantly. Finding activities that make them enjoy and have pure may help the child open up and connect with you.
Long time at school and therapy sessions can tire autistic children. Scheduling a time for play helps them unwind. Take the child to participate in everyday activities and games. Taking them every day for activities, like grocery shopping or a run may help them get used to the world around them. Find out activities that interest them and let them spend unpressured time, have fun, smile, laugh, and come out of their shell.
Autistics need more to life than therapy.
Identify Their Specific Individualized Needs
Try to identify the needs of people with ASD and meet them appropriately. They might have dietary, sensory, and emotional needs, goals, and desires. Give these needs priority and determine what suits them the best.
You can identify the needs of autistic people who have trouble expressing them in the following ways:
- Encourage alternate methods of communication like writing, body language, sign language
- Notice what happens right before a negative behavior or a meltdown to identify triggers
Identifying and meeting the requirement can benefit the autistic person to control his aggressive behavior and reduce anxiety and depression.
Safeguarding for people with autism
Due to deficits in communication and the inability to understand and express themselves, autistic people may be at higher risk of being abused by people. They can find it difficult to interpret people’s motivations. It can also be difficult for you to detect if they are being abused due to lack of speech.
Talk to them and include them in discussions on relationships. They will understand what acceptable behavior is and how to keep themselves safe. Teaching and talking to them about abuse can help them go a long way to stay safe from abuse.
People with autism spectrum disorder are amazing. They have varied personalities, cognitive and physical abilities, and talents. Taking care and working with autistic people is often a challenge though they can be wonderful people with exceptional talent.
Learning new ways of communicating with people with autism is the best way to connect and provide care. You need to be patient and empathetic to understand their needs and find ways to fulfill them. They go through a lot!