Autism Spectrum Disorder: What is Under the Surface?
We might observe tantrums, frustration, fear, anxiety, lack of flexibility, difficulty with transitions, need for sameness in routines, environments and play in children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Why? There are underlying causes for these behaviors that when identified and understood, result in far better outcomes for children, teens and their families.
To begin, children and teens with ASD most often present with difficulty processing auditory information or spoken language. As a result, difficulty or an inability to fully comprehend verbal directions such as, “Come here, sit down, stand up” may create anxiety and frustration that can result in challenging behavior.
However, information presented concretely or visually most often yields a better result. These objects, pictures, icons or written words (or any combination) provides the needed meaning to the spoken language and decreases the frustration that typically occurs when comprehension is a challenge.
Dependent upon how a child is presenting at any given moment throughout the course of a day determines the appropriate level of support the child needs to be successful. The support can shift and change as needed to allow for the ever changing individual needs of the child.
In addition, many children diagnosed with ASD are challenged by the bombardment of stimuli on the environment. A sound, sight, touch, taste or smell may trigger an adverse reaction of a challenging behavior.
Identifying the challenge provides us with an opportunity to be proactive in modifying the environment to support the child by offering the tools he/she needs to be successful in otherwise stressful settings. Noise canceling headphones, social scripts, special seating, concrete objects to promote understanding, visuals (pictures/icons), iPads, augmentative communication systems and low lighting are some examples of these tools.
The challenge of understanding and responding to spoken language as well as managing the bombardment of sensory environmental stimuli can be stressful for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Families, caregivers and professionals, with understanding, can provide individualized support or children and teens to ensure their success across all environments.