What are Autism Management Strategies?
These strategies are routines and programs that help parents, teachers and health professionals work effectively with children with autism. There are several areas in the lives of autistic children that will benefit from focused planning and management. These include sensory overload, aggression, and stimming where a child may rock, flap hands or spin around.
Managing Sensory Overload in Autism
Many autistic children have sensory issues and may be hypersensitive to touch, taste, sound and texture. Here are some ideas of how to cope with sensory overload in autistic children:
- Some autistic children do not like being touched and may react badly if parents or other people hug them or show physical affection. Others like physical pressure and benefit from heavy blankets or lying with heavy covers on them if they need some time out. Learn what works for the child and explain this to family and friends so they understand too.
- If a child is sensitive to sound, try and keep him or her out of crowded situations such as shopping malls and public events. If these are unavoidable, carry earplugs or a music player with earphones to ease discomfort.
- Some autistic children will only eat a limited number of foods and dislike the texture if it is too lumpy or too smooth. Set up a weekly meal plan and keep frozen portions of favourite foods on hand in case of being invited out.
Managing Aggression in Autistic Children
Aggression is more common in autistic children who lack the ability to communicate verbally. They get frustrated when they have a need and no one understands what it is. The aggression can take the form of yelling or it may be physical. Biting, kicking and scratching are forms of aggression and children may also injure themselves.
It is important not to reward aggressive behavior. Let the child know it is not appropriate and work on helping them communicate through cards or pictures. A safe room in the house is an option some parents use. If the child throws a tantrum, they are placed in this room which has no sharp corners, no dangerous items, and soft furnishings.
Aggression can often be managed if parents can work out what is causing it and then subsequently trying to avoid the aggression triggers.
Managing Stimming in Autism
Stimming is a term that means self stimulation. An autistic child will often indulge in a repetitive behavior such as rocking, flapping their arms or spinning in circles. These behaviors help them to escape to an inner place where they can block out the world and its accompanying stresses. Unfortunately, they can also attract negative attention and make them a target for bullies.
The best way to handle stimming is to work out what is causing it and try to avoid it. This can be any situation that causes stress to an autistic child. Crowds, loud noises and a break in routine are all possible triggers. In some cases, it may be possible to teach the child a more socially acceptable form of stimming such as finger movements.
Autism management strategies will vary according to the needs of the children involved. The key things to remember are to pinpoint the cause of the behavior and then work on managing it. This may be through avoidance or through providing a way for children to cope with difficult situations.
Children with Autism – A Parents' Guide, Michael D Powers, Woodbine House, 2000