How Autism Can Affect Speech, Language, and Eating
It is not easy to receive a diagnosis of Autisim for your child, and it is even harder to adjust to life as you learn to manage the unique stresses and situations you find yourself in. Daily life as a parent of a special needs child is a challenge, but it can also be a joy as you learn to love unconditionally. How do you learn to come to terms with the diagnosis and what that means for your child, you, and your whole family? No doubt, it is going to be a process wrought with strong emotions, but as you learn to navigate these waters together, you will find a strength you didn’t know you possessed, and you will find precious gifts in your child along the way.
What Is Autisim?
Autisim is a disorder referring to a range of conditions and symptoms characterized by challenging social behaviors, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communicative struggles, and unique strengths amidst adversity. While the symptoms range in severity from mild to profound, the characteristics of autism remain true to their definition. Symptoms become visible around two to three years of age, and many families are not prepared to deal with the challenges that come with caring for their children with this diagnosis. Learning more about the disorder, as well as options for treatment and therapy will be helpful for everyone involved in childcare.
Speech and Language Challenges Unique To Children With The Diagnosis
There are speech and language issues that arise with the diagnosis, and in order for these children to be successful, they can be addressed in several different ways. Both expressive and receptive language are affected in these children, and it is important to address the unique needs of both as you progress forward with treatment. Quite often, there is a deficit in the ability to express emotions and feelings through language–in cases where this can be modified, the use of pictures and visual representation of emotions has been proven to be quite helpful. Children struggle with the recognition of social cues given to them by their external world, and learning to decode some of these signals and then use tools to respond appropriately to people and things is helpful in rounding out better communicative skills.
At times, the ability to speak clearly and easily is also compromised in children with the diagnosis. Apraxia of speech is a severe motor speech disorder that occurs with more frequency in these children than in children who are on a normal development spectrum. The combination of language/emotion disconnection and difficulties with speech can present an enormous challenge to a child, as therapy for both issues is very time consuming and intensive. Often times, in favor of needing to treat more prevalent behaviors, something as seemingly small as a lateral lisp is overlooked, because people are not able to see and treat the child as a whole being.
Surprisingly, eating is another area that is of concern for children on the spectrum. They often exhibit behaviors that are averse to eating, or they develop motor skills that are not conducive to creating healthy eating patterns. Perhaps the most important distinction to realize between a picky eater and a resistant or problem eater is the severity of the condition. A resistant or problem eater could actually be putting health and life at risk by displaying eating and drinking behaviors that are counterproductive and harmful to him/her. Often times, treating emotional stress around eating, speech, and language recognition does wonders in improving all of these issues.
Family Care During Stressful Times
As parents, we often find ourselves putting our own self-care on the back burner in the interest of taking care of our children. This is especially true if we have children with special needs. It is vital that we maintain our own health and mental fortitude, as well as learning to express and deal with the emotional side of caring for our children and families. Here are some things we must be “mindful” of when navigating our unique life path:
Be proactive with treatment–getting your child into treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis will ensure that they are getting the support that they need, as well as provide you with valuable tools you can use to carve out your experience at home. You are not alone.
Ask for helpTalk to friends, other families who have children on the spectrum, and professionals that are trained to assist you on your path. Open yourself up to the love and support of others as you become an expert yourself. Give back to others when you can, and realize that you would not have been given this challenge if you were not able to handle it. There is a larger reason for everything.
Practice self-care if you are a caregiverWhen facing the unique challenges that parents face, it is important to not lose yourself in the process of caregiving. Take time to care for yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally; when you are a full reservoir of support, you can allow others to draw from you without creating additional stress on you and affecting your well being. Refuse to feel guilty about taking care of yourself as well–you will be a better parent and caregiver if you are healthy.
Surrounding yourself with helpful, positive people on this journey is essential to navigating your journey with success. Find professionals that you trust to treat and care not just for your child, but your whole family, as you experience both the highs and lows that this condition brings. There are a wealth of resources and support out there; embrace the path that you are on, and become a better parent through love, acceptance, and support.