The Autism Society Philippines (ASP) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of persons with autism spectrum disorder. The ASP has been in the forefront of providing services and training to families living with autism.

07 July 2012

Take and Give -- ASP’s Support for Parents

By: Jan Peña, ASP National President.


Parents of newly diagnosed children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are alarmed by common concerns about their children. Some of these were mentioned during the just concluded Family Support Group held on 23 June 2012 at the ASP National Office.

Among them are undeveloped speech, or inability to express their wants or needs; lack of focus and low attention span, manipulative behavior (such as crying and or having tantrums); hyperactivity, repetitive behavior, fixation to objects, sleeping and toileting problems. With anxiety at a toll, early intervention, as advised, will be vain, unless it begins with parents' education.

Early on, parents need to understand that a child with ASD is endowed with a brain that is differently configured or "wired" from that of a neurotypical (the "normal" as we say). The range of "atypical" and "disturbing" patterns of behavior that we perceive is truly his nature -- a result of his brain's condition.

While there is no way that we can change the child's brain so that we can "make our children become like us”, there is a limitless number of ways by which we can help them to overcome (not solve) the sensory, behavior and communication difficulties.

First, parents need to understand their children with autism first; then accept their children’s condition; but not to get stuck in their diagnosis. Parents also need to know their own child, and to understand that while he is alike in many ways with other kids in the spectrum, he is also different.

Knowing your own child should challenge parents to summon your God-given wisdom and creativity to turn your child's deficits, fears and fixations into strengths that will enable him to overcome and even excel. This means parents must change focus from anxiety and worrying to actively studying strategies that could address the child's present needs (not future needs!)

We can learn from what therapists and teachers do to teach basic skills as sitting, waiting and activities of daily living (ADL). We can learn from seminars and through reading. A word of caution though, not everything we get from seminars and books may not be exactly compatible to the nature of our child, nor are easily available and affordable. However, we can apply the worthy principles by modifying the settings, materials or content according to our child's needs and capacity.

Last, being part of a support group like the ASP may already address half of the parents' anxieties and fears. A support group is made up of people who by their common experience are able to relate and exhale their loads to one another. More than that, a support group like the ASP is made up of people who are "experienced" and have hurdled the toughest tests and are now acting as mentors to fellow parents. Best, a support group like the ASP offers opportunities and services which members not only TAKE but also GIVE.

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