Autism is among the most dreaded disorders amongst parents. It is characterized by difficulty in communication and impairment in social skills. While these are the primary symptoms, some kids who suffer from this disorder may also exhibit repetitive behaviors and obsessive traits. The good thing is that autism is treatable when discovered early. This is done using a combination of medication and therapies aimed at reducing symptoms and improving the kid’s quality of life.
Well, one of the challenges facing autism patients is that they are more susceptible to sensory overload or overstimulation. In other words, they tend to be highly sensitive to their environments. The sensory stimulations that cause an overload may come from various sources. Among others, some of these may include flickering lights, intense smells, persistent disturbing sounds, and the sight/sound of fluttering objects like curtains or wall hangings.
It is also worth noting that apart from sensory overstimulation, other forms of OS exist. These include emotional, social, and intellectual overstimulation. But how do you help a child with autism to cope with such situations? Here are six ways in which you can help children with autism handle overstimulation.
1. Learn the Triggers and Signs of Overstimulation
It’s every parent’s responsibility to know their child better than themselves, from their deepest fears to happiness triggers. The first step to managing overstimulation is marking out the things that trigger your child. An autistic child, unlike other children, requires a higher level of care and attention. Get to learn some of the regular triggers that tend to upset or overwhelm your child. It might be tiredness, unrealistic expectations, hunger, or discomfort.
Some of the signs he might exhibit during an overload may include flapping arms, showing irritability, covering the ears, and so forth. Kim Barloso, a professional writer at AutismParentingMagazine.com, points out that hand flapping is also a common sign of ASD and may indicate overstimulation. It can be triggered by a range of things, including nervousness, excitement, decreased movement, and fidgeting. If it affects your child’s daily life quality or leads to self-harm, it definitely requires intervention.
Knowing your child’s meltdown points could relieve you some tremendous stress, considering how difficult it can get trying to get him back under control. You can also encourage your child to speak up when they get frustrated or agitated, that’s if they’re able to express themselves.
2. Devise Ways to Keep the Child Calm
Autistic meltdowns are the most difficult situations any parent with an autistic child can be faced with. Calming your child can be the safest route in such a scenario. One of the best ways to handle overstimulation is to teach your child how to manage his feelings and responses. This will help counteract the outbursts and fits of rage before they happen. You can move to a quiet place or a corner and give the child some time alone as you watch from afar.
Try creating a special calming corner in the house for him, with some calming sensory tools, like squeeze balls, punching bags, and so forth. You can also help the child through activities like counting, numbering, listening to music, or even walking out of the agitating situation. The special toys help the child to calm down and attain a sense of security.
3. Involve Your Child While Planning
Sometimes surprises don’t always work; they can be a recipe for ruin. Autistic children tend to be engulfed negatively by new events or places. A simple outing to the park for ice cream could create an outburst if you did not prepare your child in advance. To avoid this, ensure you involve your child when you are planning for any events. This will prepare him mentally, so it doesn’t catch him off-guard. For instance, let your child know which events you will be attending, what activities you will engage in, and what time you will be getting back home. It can help keep the child calm.
A majority of parents tend to create and plan time for everything but fail to plan on exercising with their children. Exercising is medicine by itself. It is a natural therapy that can help reduce sensory overload in autistic children. Physical activities are not only fun and safe, but they also provide an opportunity for the child to socialize with others. A simple exercise such as taking a deep breath or jumping on a trampoline can tremendously help the child relieve stress as they burn off energy and benefit mentally.
5. Bring in a Pet
Pets have been proven to have a calming effect on children with autistic spectrum conditions. Having a pet dog or cat can help make the child more responsible. It gives the child extra companionship, which has immense therapeutic benefits. It may also support positive behavioral changes like improving social interaction.
Kids with autism aren’t any less special. They deserve to be understood and assisted in coping with their challenges and extreme moments. They deserve a great life, just like any other kid. With the few tips above, you will hopefully be better at helping your child cope with bouts of overstimulation associated with autism. Don’t forget therapy and medication while at it.