Often, grandparents are an essential part of a child’s support system. Solstice Behavioral Health encourages all family members to be part of the support efforts that reinforce the Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy in our facilities and throughout our programs. This guide is meant to be a quick tool of introduction to autism with a few tips for grandparents both new and experienced with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children.
What is autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterized by social-interaction difficulties, cognitive impairments, communication difficulties, and repetitive behaviors. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, it can range from very mild to very severe. ASD is a neurodevelopmental condition that delays the development of basic skills like socializing, communicating, and developing independent living skills.
What causes Autism (ASD)?
Scientists and doctors have not found a root cause for ASD, but some research suggests genetics and environment are key factors.
How is a person diagnosed with ASD?
ASD can be difficult to diagnose because there is no medical test, like a blood test, to confirm the disorder. Instead, specialized doctors and trained staff like the one at Solstice Behavioral Health & Consulting consider the child’s developmental history and behavior to make a diagnosis. You can read more in our Early Diagnosis and Intervention informational article.
My grandchild was just diagnosed. What now?
Your adult children (the child’s Parents) will need your support as they navigate the new terrain. They are about to start a journey to support your grandchild which includes finding the services/therapy, learning how to communicate, and handling any co-occuring medical issues.
A grandparent’s role is to be a trusted person they can lean on, talk to without judgment, and who offers support for the child.
Difficulty Dealing Behaviors And Meltdowns
It is so important to recognize that your grandchild is not choosing to behave poorly. Many children with autism cannot communicate basic needs or wants. For example, if a child is thirsty, hungry, in pain, hot, cold, tired, wants to watch a specific show/movie, etc., they may not be able to tell you.
Imagine living in a world where you cannot express yourself effectively. Many children are left feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. They may also have sensory challenges making them especially sensitive to light, sound and touch. A lack of structure or predictability for the individual may also lead to the child engaging in undesirable behavior, including bolting or wandering from the environment. Helping to identify and avoid triggers is key to preventing a child from entering a “fight or flight” mode.
4 Autism Communication Strategies for Grandparents
Technicians, therapists, and specialists can use many strategies to encourage your child to communicate. In fact, you have probably already seen some of these strategies work for your child and implemented at home.
1. Communication Boards
When a child has difficulty speaking, it can be helpful to provide an alternative. A communications board is a board with images, illustrations, or symbols that enable a child to express themselves simply by pointing at the object. Modern solutions include smartphone applications or digital communication boards.
2. Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
A Picture Exchange Communication System is very similar to a communication board. However, it adds a few more possibilities including questions, thoughts, requests, and feelings. When children are fluently using a PECS, it is common that they become more open to other strategies and tools for communication including flashcards and verbal or physical cues.
3. Speech Generating Devices (SGDs)
Speech Generating Devices can be used on a smartphone or tablet and are used by pointing and touching objects, symbols, or photos. The equipment produces speech after the child has tapped on the image or keyboard. By introducing an alphabetic keyboard along with sight words and photos, your child will practice language basics and be able to communicate more freely than with a board that may not include the words your child wants to share.
4. Sign Language
There are more than 1 Million people in the world that use Americal Sign Language (ASL). For the deaf community and others with speech challenges, it is their primary means of communication. Although our ultimate goal is verbal communication, sign language is an equally successful form of communication that can allow your child to express all of their thoughts and feelings without the restrictions of electronic devices.