The National Autistic Society has said that families of children with autism are rarely getting the support they need to cope with their autistic child. Many parents have reported the difficulties of coping with a child with autism, particularly when many children’s outbursts become frequently violent.
Autism is a disability that essentially affects how someone communicates with people and the world around them. Autism cannot be cured, rather people can learn to live with it by adopting certain strategies that work for them. It is also a condition that has a broad spectrum of conditions. There are around 700,000 people in the UK with autism which is more than 1 in a 100. Although it tends to affect men more than women, it is not defined by race, nationality or socio economic background.
Because autistic people often don’t look any different, it can be hard for parents of autistic children. Their child’s behaviour can look to onlookers as being ‘naughty or just disruptive when in fact they cannot help how they are feeling or behaving. One example parents often quote is the stress of taking an autistic child to the hairdressers. For many autistic children having someone touch their hair or having their hair fall on their neck or face is very stressful and can lead to tantrum like behaviour.
Autistic people have real problems understanding language both verbal and non-verbal language. So for example sarcasm and facial expressions will be difficult for them to understand. Some autistic people may have limited speech and rely on sign language to get by. Other autistic people have good language skills but may still struggle to cope with the demands of conversations and social ‘norms’.
Autistic people also often appear to lack emotional intelligence, so they often can’t read others feelings. This can make them appear insensitive or just socially inappropriate. This can make it hard to form relationships and friendships. In addition autistic people require good routine in their lives, often as a way of coping with the world around them. As such they may need to eat at exactly the same time each day and may not cope well with change or needing to adapt if required.
There is no real understanding of what causes autism. The general belief is that it may well be a mix of genetic and environmental factors.
The Society now argues that parents need more help in coping with autistic children. Many families report that as the behaviour can become violent so they need more support. As such they have called on local authorities and NHS England to try to improve the care they offer. They cite the need to offer respite care for families and for families to have more access to behavioural strategies to help them cope.
NHS England has said that it does have a clear programme for those with autism but the Local Government Association has said that they are under more pressure due to funding cuts.
According to NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) it is clear that the following general principles of care should be available to all families. All families should have an assessment of their child and following this a care plan should be produced as to how the behaviour should be managed. Anti-psychotic medication should also be available if required.
If you require support regarding autism then do contact the National Autistic Society. Their helpline number is 0808 8004104. This helpline is open Monday to Thursday 10-4, Friday 9-3.Child Autism UK is also a support and advice service for parents of children with autism. They can be reached on 013440882248. They can put you in touch with other parents and help you cope. They also provide advice to teachers and schools on how to manage children with autism in the school environment.