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Challenges Faced by Parents of Autistic Children

Challenges Faced by Parents of Autistic Children

Raising a child with autism comes with a lot of responsibility and fears. There is always a sense of doubt in the form of questions like “Am I doing enough for my child”, “Is my child able to know what makes him special”, “Is my child independent”. Optimism and a strong will do not come out of the blue or aren’t something that can be imbibed only through constant practice. It is only after one win over the concerning fears and apprehensions that one becomes an evolved being. Something similar is applicable to the parents of the autistic children. They are fraught with immense strength and perseverance. However, they do have their own set of fears which are justified in themselves. Some of these doubts are as follows:
1. The fear of not being able to accept the autistic condition: Parenthood is about a sense of fulfillment. However, when it comes to the child having autism, the aspect of fulfillment becomes a complex affair. Here, the fulfillment is just not limited to the kind of values that are to be given to the child but to imbibe acceptability regarding the specially-abled condition both on the front of the parents and how they help their wards to accept the disability.

2. The fear of insufficiency: There is always a feeling of “Am I doing enough for my child?” Autism characterizes problems with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech, and nonverbal communication. In such cases, the children need added care. This constant fear is justified as it is this very feeling, if channelized, can help such parents to become understanding beings.

3. The fear of the child’s adulthood: It is comparatively easier to look after the child’s needs until the age is less. Entry into adulthood is the beginning of the phase when the children enter into society on their terms. An autistic child has to face a lot of challenges of being differently-abled which might have an impact on the psychic level. This fear constantly troubles the parents.

4. The fear of a Child’s attitude towards Parents: There is an apprehension in the minds of the parents if their children can actually understand as to how much they love them or whether they will mistake love with sympathy.

5. The fear of Autism being an incurable disorder: Autism does not have any treatment. It can only be regulated through therapies and counseling. This, in itself, needs to be accepted and accordingly dealt with. It is a lifetime disorder.

If you’re the parent of a child with autism, these fears are justified and should be accepted so that you can bring up your autistic child in the best possible manner keeping in mind all kinds of complications. The best thing is to face reality with awareness and not escape it through dejection.

School Readiness: Opening Doors for Inclusive Education

School Readiness: Opening Doors for Inclusive Education

What is Inclusive Education?

Inclusive Education is education for all irrespective of differences. According to UNESCO, inclusive education is seen as “a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all learners through increasing participation in learning, cultures and communities, and reducing exclusion from education and from within education.” Inclusive education means that all students attend and are welcomed by their neighborhood schools in age-appropriate, regular classes and are supported to learn, contribute and participate in all aspects of the life of the school. 

What is not Inclusion?

  1. Educating children in regular classes but different course of study.
  2. Educating children in special segregated environments in regular school
  3. Dumping children with special needs into the regular classroom
  4. Educating children in part-time in special school and part-time in regular school

What is the meaning of School Readiness?

Is school readiness about child being ready for education or is the school ready to offer adequate facilities? There are many questions which arise when it comes to think about practicing inclusive education. The more the questions, the more are the chances of finding solutions. Some of the other questions related to school readiness are as follows:

  1. Does your school have a mission statement that expresses the belief that the professionals and other staff strive to meet the needs of all students? Is this mission statement discussed by staff and used to guide instructional practices?
  2. Have teachers had opportunities to discuss their concerns about inclusion and have steps been taken to address these concerns?
  3. Has planning for inclusion included classroom teachers, special education teachers, other support staff, administrators, parents, and students?
  4. Have you clarified the expectations for students with disabilities who will be integrated into classrooms?
  5. Has shared planning time and possibly shared instructional time been arranged for teams of teachers?
  6. Have staff members received adequate professional development on pertinent topics (for example, collaboration, behavior management, curricular adaptation)?
  7. Has the plan for creating an inclusive school addressed the needs of all students, not just the need of students with disabilities?
  8. Have staff members become comfortable with working collaboratively?
  9. Has a pilot program been planned prior to full implementation?
  10. Have start-up resources been allocated for the inclusion effort?

These questions subtly hint at various challenges that need serious attention.

  1. The number of disabled children is very large.
  2. Their problems are very complex. 
  3. Available resources are very limited. Lack of additional manpower required to handle specific needs. Children drop out from mainstream schools due to lack of accessibility.
  4. Lack of awareness leads to demotivated and prejudiced social attitudes. Issues with Acceptance for different educational needs.
  5. Lack of suitable, quality trained, good special education professionals. 

Some measures for implementing Inclusive Education in India

  1. The Right to Education (RTE) must apply to all citizens of India.  State and central. Governments, as well as all the other social actors, should recognize the importance of a broadened concept of inclusive education that addresses the diverse needs of all learners. 
  2. A standard policy and norms of inclusion needs to be implemented in all schools and throughout Indian education system. 
  3. The preparation of teachers for special education programs should be planned differently, as the aim of these programs would be to integrate disabled persons in their own environment and community. 
  4. Differently-abled children should be treated equally as the normal children and instead of looking them in sympathy their talents and abilities should be recognized for their self-respect and welfare of the society.  
  5. Necessary school supplies such as audio learning or textbooks in Braille should be made available. Suitable modification to examination system may be required, so as to eliminate pure mathematical and logical assessments. 
  6.  Teachers attitudes towards inclusive education could be formed and developed in the context of an educational system which can provide some specific conditions in order to have a good practice in this field. 

It is imperative to understand that inclusion is more than a method of educating students with special needs.  Success for inclusion needs collaborative efforts of all stakeholders. The road to achieving inclusive education is a long one, on which challenges and opportunities will arise. But if we start now with the first step we will certainly move forward towards our goal.

Know the Signs of Autism

Know the Signs of Autism

In order to cure any problem, it is important to first actually know that there is a problem.
Unlike most other mental problems, Autism is not a disease that could be easily treated with medicine. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by social impairments, cognitive impairments, communication difficulties and repetitive behaviour.

As a parent, nobody wishes for their little one to have any problem but sometimes, in the rush of our lives we often miss out many important things that could actually mean a lot. Such happens in the case of Autism and catching it ideally by the age of eighteen months can make a huge difference and starting early treatment can reduce the disorder’s effects and help your child learn, grow, and thrive.

Autism appears in infancy or early childhood, but can only be diagnosed by a professional until the child is over twenty four months or two years. However, there are signs that could indicate that the child is on the spectrum as early as six months of age.
Every child is unique, so is their rate of development. Hence, the signs and the severity of the symptoms can vary from child to child.

One important thing that parents should look out for is that autism isn’t recognized by the presence of strange behaviour, but from lack of normal behavior. Also some children with autism may appear normal before age 1 or 2 and suddenly “regress” afterwards losing any language or social skills they had previously gained. This is called the regressive type of autism.

Following are some early signs of Autism you must look out for and if your child exhibits any of the following then do not delay in asking your pediatrician or family doctor for an evaluation—

● No smile or warm joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
● No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by nine months
● No babbling by 12 months
● No back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving by 12 months
● No words by 16 months
● Doesn’t make noises to get your attention
● Never initiates or respond to cuddling or reach out to be picked up
● No meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating) by 24 months
● Loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age
● No response to their name (the child may appear deaf)
● No demonstration of interest at anything
● Loss of/avoiding eye contact
● Always wants to be alone
● Difficulty in understanding
● Never expresses own feelings or understands other people’s feelings
● Repeats words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
● Gets upset by minor changes
● Has obsessive interests
● Flaps hands, rocks body, or spins in circles
● Has unusual reactions (over or under-sensitivity) to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel
● Has low to no social skills
● Avoids or resists physical contact
● Demonstrates little safety or danger awareness
● Reverses pronouns (e.g., says “you” instead of “I”)
● Gives unrelated answers to questions

Children with autism may also show some other type of signs which may appear normal but come under ASD symptoms.

● Having unusual interests and behaviors
● Extreme anxiety or having unusual phobias
● Playing with toys the same way every time
● Getting upset over minor changes
● Having obsessive tendencies
● Wanting to keep their things at the same place
● Hyperactivity (very active)
● Impulsivity (acting without thinking)
● Short attention span
● Aggression
● Causing self injury
● Meltdowns
● Unusual eating and sleeping habits
● Unusual mood or emotional reactions
● Lack of fear or more fear than expected
● Having unusual sleeping habits

Aditya and Happy: Defeating Autism and Inspiring Life at MBCN

Aditya and Happy: Defeating Autism and Inspiring Life at MBCN

Autism is not a processing error. It is a different operating system.

If you have no clue about Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder, then you must know that these terms are used interchangeably to describe a number of complex disorders. Autism can be considered a spectrum condition which goes back to the issues with brain development. Children with autism display repetitive behaviour, difficulties in non-verbal and verbal communication as well as problems in social interactions, attention and motor coordination.

When we talk about repetitive behaviour, we basically refer to repeating certain actions and over-indulgence in individual interests. A slight deviation from common routine upsets them. They lack social communication, therefore, make little eye contact and rarely look at or listen to other people. They get away with gestures, facial expressions and movements and can’t go with the uttered words.

Sensing the Sensitivity

Autistic people can experience under or over-sensitivity to touch, smell, sound, light, taste and colours. For instance, there are certain background sounds that other people ignore but the autistic people find it quite distracting and unbearably loud. This type of hypersensitivity may lead to anxiety and physical pain. Those who are hypo-sensitive, cannot feel pain and need to spin, flap or rock their hands in order to stimulate sensation, help with balancing and dealing with stress.  Therefore, it is difficult for them to even carry out the fine motor tasks, such as tying shoelaces.

However, it is their different abilities in which their strengths and abilities lie. Children with autism may have above-average intelligence, pay attention to detail and are strong auditory and visual learners. Since, autistic children go through a spectrum condition and not a disease, there is no particular cause behind autism. It is believed to occur due to certain environmental factors and autism risk genes that affect early brain development. These factors affect a child during birth or even before it.

MBCN Making a Difference

Such a child can seek help at a charitable school for special children, Mata Bhagwanti Chadha Niketan (MBCN). Here, a child psychiatrist, a speech-language pathologist and a developmental paediatrician work together in training them to improve their communication, age-appropriate skills and brain development. Just pay attention to the numerous success stories here and you will know what we mean.

Aditya and Happy Fight Autism

Focus on the case of Aditya Mishra. A quite talented boy, Aditya was accepted under the Autistic Wing of MBCN. Teach him anything during an activity class and he catches up quick without delay. As you teach, he tries not to forget or miss out on any part. He remembers stories from the movies he has watched and memorises songs, bhajans, stuti and stotras in one go. He can recite the most difficult of stotras and songs without stuttering or fumbling. He just needs to listen once and is ready to surprise you with his memory and singing ability. This small wonder is a storehouse of energy and is always keen on learning new things.

Did you meet Aditya Anand Raj aka Happy from the Autistic Wing yet? Come to MBCN where you may find him busy sketching. He is brimming with creativity, hence, can draw anything which he can be asked for. Ask him to draw something and he will oblige you with his fingers running fast on paper. He can even get down to sketching with an abstract idea while enjoying his class activities. He also excels in studies and is really good at subjects including English, Maths and Hindi.

These two are stars shining bright every day at MBCN while disparaging the myth that being autistic reduces your mental abilities. Aditya and Happy are living examples who are overcoming all possible challenges and utilising their limitless possibilities. They inspire living to the world in their own unique ways.