By Claudia Hailwood
Does Your Child Have Aggressive Behaviors?
Imagine for a second that you are in a room filled with incredibly annoying sounds or music you hate the worst (you choose what annoys you the most) and you have an everlasting mouthful of peanut butter, and have to ask the person in charge of that room to turn it off!! But, in a foreign language you aren't too good at yet. So, not only are you annoyed beyond comprehension, you are also limited in your speaking abilities due to the horrible peanut butter in your mouth, and you have to speak in that foreign language course you took back when you were young. Frustrating? This is what our children with Autism are experiencing when they experience Sensory Overload. We all experience Sensory Overload to some degree, but we have the verbal skills to communicate (hopefully) with people around us to just "make it stop already!!!"
How Do You Solve It?
The one thing our children with Autism tend to have the biggest delay in is in their Speech/Verbal Communication Skills. Not every child with Autism experiences this delay, and it tends to run prevalent in BOYS. The younger the child, the larger the delay gap tends to be as they are still developing growth-wise. The number one best thing you the parent can do to ease your and their pain is to get them SPEECH THERAPY ASAP!! Speech and Language Pathologists (SLP) can work wonders with your child. If you aren't sure where to start here is one option, in California we have this thing called First Five California, which provides parents of children with Autism or suspected of having Autism, with free testing, free Speech & Occupational Therapy (OT) services. This program is only available to children 5 and under, but if you ask your child's paediatrician for a referral, they may be able to point you in the right direction. Shop around, and don't settle if you aren't satisfied with the first professional you contact, there are tons of them out there!
What About at Home?
The number one best thing you can do in your home is to be CONSISTENT. As a Special Education Teacher in a school for children with Intensive Behaviors brought on mostly by Autism, CONSISTENCY was key. Another thing we said almost RELIGIOUSLY was: "USE YOUR WORDS," and praised our students (e.g., "I like how you used your words that time Johnny") for even approximating what they were trying to say to us. As opposed to a primal screech, a regular favorite of a large number of the new students we took in. The more we praised, the more our children with Autism wanted to use their words, and the calmer they appeared in class.
You first have to teach your child these words. Words like: "Please Stop" or "I need a break" or "I don't like that." And you as the parent need to say what you don't like as well: "that is NOT OK" or "No thank you" and be...you guessed it: CONSISTENT. Even if you feel like you want to tear your hair out. Do NOT "jump to it" when your child screeches or throws tantrums. Be STRONG and FIRM in your expectations. Children with Autism, like any other child are seeing how far they can make you jump and push your buttons until you are almost ready to snap. Add to this their high level of intelligence and you have a master manipulator of YOU. The ball is in YOUR COURT.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) can be a wonderful tool for you to have in your back pocket. Stay Strong and Positive and don't be afraid to reach out to organizations dedicated to families living with Autism.