According to Wikipedia, autism is defined as “a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted and repetitive behavior.”
Acting as a caregiver for a child with autism can be extremely challenging, regardless of a person’s background and experience. Often times, the caregiver will be one of the child’s parents or a close relative, because nothing is stronger than family values, love and the strong bond that develops between members of the family. The child will also need constant attention, which can be provided by a family member living in the same house.
Parents must always be alert for signs that their child isn’t developing as well or as quickly as other children in the family or elsewhere. Signs that there may be problems generally appear within the child’s first two years of life, and it’s at this point that the parents must seek support.
Unless the parent already has a child with autism and has the necessary experience, education and support are two major keys to providing the best possible care to a child with this condition. Research has shown that if intervention takes place prior to the age of three, its impact is much greater in comparison with situations where the child wasn’t officially diagnosed until after the age of five.
Early intervention can help improve cognitive, physical, verbal, non-verbal, emotional and social aspects of a child’s personality. Occupational and/or speech therapy can help the child attain a better quality of life, by helping him understand and communicate with those around him.
Children with autism are visual communicators. The caregiver needs to communicate visually to get through to the child and help him gain a better understanding of the world around him.
The key to providing the best care is to become a teacher, not a controller. If controlling methods are used, the child won’t learn properly and will remain introverted. However, through the use of visual stimuli, teaching can be fun for both the adult and child.
The caregiver should create a standard daily routine that the child can easily follow. Regular times for therapy, meals, bedtime, school and anything else in their life should be mapped out in such a way that the child can learn from such routines and develop better communication skills over time. A child with autism needs strong encouragement for every achievement, no matter how small it may be.
As the child grows and learns, the caregiver must also grow and learn new techniques to help look after the child, not just for today, but for the rest of the child’s life. The internet can provide an enormous wealth of information, but it’s critical to distinguish between good advice and bad advice.
There are also support groups that a parent or caregiver can attend. Many of the participants bring their children along to help them make new friends. It’s also a way for caregivers to demonstrate some of the techniques they use that may help others.
The caregiver must never compare the child with others, because everyone is different. Autism simply means that the child will have different learning and coping skills to master in comparison with the things that would ordinarily be taught to a child.
A caregiver must have lots of love for the child. He/she must be patient, persistent, tolerant supportive, caring and so much more. The child becomes the center of their world, in a similar way that any child would be to a parent or caregiver.