What not to do, when a child is diagnosed with autism
When a child is diagnosed with autism, it's important for parents/caregivers to approach the situation with sensitivity and understanding. Here's what not to do
A child is the most precious thing for any parent so when the diagnosis is revealed to the parents, the entire world crashes down for them, leaving them with lots of uncertainties about their child and they try to go for quick fixes and quack treatments that claim to cure autism but autism is not curable and requires a different way of thinking, according to experts. When a child is diagnosed with autism, it is important for parents and caregivers to approach the situation with sensitivity and informed understanding.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Puja Kapoor, Paediatric Neurologist and Co-Founder of Continua kids, shared, “After the child is diagnosed with autism, it takes a while to accept the diagnosis. Obviously, it is very hard to accept that a child who is so “normal” physically, could have a developmental disorder which would make him so disconnected with the world. So much so, that he stops calling his mother “ma” and disregards her presence but for the best interest of the child, the diagnosis should not be delayed. Early intervention is the key to best results. The earlier the interventions are executed, the better the results are.”
She advised, “Do not waste time in accepting the diagnosis. There are no shortcuts to treatment. A plethora of treatment modalities are available on internet. Many of them give a quick fix to the management, like certain medications, stem cell therapy, hyperbaric oxygen etc, etc. Do not fall prey to these shortcuts as they are still under experimental research phase. Always select the approach which is scientifically proven and backed by research. Do not compare. Every individual is unique in its own sense. Do not compare the trajectory of your child with other children. This only brings a lot of anxiety thus deteriorating the progress of the child.”
Dr Prakash Selvaperumal, Paediatrician at Apollo Cradle and Children’s Hospital in Chennai, recommended, “Firstly, avoiding denial or blame is essential. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder and is not caused by parenting style or environmental factors. Secondly, refrain from pursuing unproven "miracle cures" or treatments. These can be ineffective and potentially harmful as it can trigger the child. It is important to not isolate the child. The child's involvement in social activities and interactions, tailored to their comfort level, can greatly benefit their development. However, pushing them into overwhelming situations should also be avoided."
He added, "Another mistake is neglecting early intervention services. Early intervention, including therapies like speech and occupational therapy, can significantly enhance a child's skills and potential for a more fulfilling life. Finally, it is critical to maintain realistic expectations. While progress is possible, aiming for a complete "cure" may result in disappointment. Celebrate each small accomplishment and concentrate on developing the child's strengths. In summary, avoiding denial of the situation, seeking evidence-based interventions, providing a supportive social environment, embracing early intervention, and setting realistic expectations are vital when a child is diagnosed with Autism."
Bringing her expertise to the same, Dr Isha Soni, Senior Occupational Therapist and Centre Head at Lexicon Rainbow Therapy and Child Development Centre in Pune, asserted that it is not a disease and said, “Undoubtedly, there are challenges during early childhood development, with some crucial speech and social milestones being missed by the child but parents must go forward only with evidence-based practices like speech, occupational, sensory integration and ABA therapy. Parents must strictly stay away from chelation therapy, stem cell therapy, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy, as these are not evidence-based and are more damaging than beneficial for autism. At times, they can prove fatal as well. At times, parents just stay in denial and do not accept the diagnosis. These further delays the early intervention window for the child.”
She suggested, “Early intervention is crucial to determining the child's developmental trajectory. It works wonders, as behaviours are easy to nip in the bud. Early intervention also facilitates communication in the child, which makes life easier for both the child and his parents. Autism does not have a one-size-fits all protocol. Hence, parents must understand that following blindly certain YouTube videos or videos from some parent WhatsApp groups will not have an impact on the child. A tailored programme from a therapist and other experts is strongly recommended.”
Ankita Mahajan, Naturopath and Founder of Yogymummy, highlighted a list of things you should stop doing with an autistic child:
- Forcing them to respond to anything (you must accept that the child has autism and expect delays from his/her side)
- Nullifying their emotions (being autistic does not mean they cannot feel. All their emotions are valid and do not form your opinion for the same. These kids too need love, love them without judging them!)
- Taking them differently than other kids. (These kids are special kids and you are mistaking them if you think they are the disabled ones. Every kid is special and has capabilities to do things differently. An autistic child still can learn, create and grow!)