Intermountain Healthcare

Six Tips for Interacting Positively with Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder


Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 05/07/2021 --Autism spectrum disorders are common in children, but because the signs of autism vary and may not be physically recognizable, many people are unsure how to identify or interact with a child who is on the autism spectrum, when they're at school or in other public situations.

According to recent data from the CDC, 1 in 54 children in the U.S. has an autism spectrum disorder or ASD. These autism disorders occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. ASD is four times more common among boys than among girls.

"It might difficult for children and parents to recognize children on the autism spectrum, since the signs can vary and be subtle, said Theresa Golley, director of rehabilitation, at Intermountain Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City, UT and a registered and licensed occupational therapist.

According to Golley, some of the most common signs of autism spectrum disorder include:

- Difficulty socializing with others, responding to social cues, and understanding feelings
- Difficulty communicating, including speaking and understanding
- Unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel
- Avoiding or resisting physical contact
- Discomfort when regular routines are disrupted
- Repetitive physical behaviors

If you think your child or a child you know might have an autism spectrum disorder, it's important to seek early intervention," said Golley.

According to the National Institutes of Health, research shows early diagnosis and interventions for autism are more likely to have major long-term positive effects on symptoms and later skills. At the age of two to three years old, a young child's brain is still forming, meaning it is more "plastic" or changeable than at older ages. Because of this plasticity, treatments have a better chance of being effective in the longer term.

Parents can start by asking their pediatrician or family practice medical provider about any communication challenges or unusual behaviors they see in their child.

"It's also really helpful for the parents of other children to help them understand there are other children who are different than they are. If you were the parent of a child on the autism spectrum, you'd want people to understand and be kind," she said.

Golley offers six tips and tools to help other children and adults communicate with children on the autism spectrum:

- Be patient. Children with autism may need more time to process information.
- Be kind and flexible. They're often less able to adapt to new situations.
- Use gestures or other ways to communicate besides words.
- Learn how to show interest and affection in ways they like.
- Use positive reinforcement. Praise or reward good behavior.
- Don't take things personally if their responses are blunt.

If your child is diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, ask your child's doctor about therapies that are available for them.

"Speech language pathologists can help children with autism improve social and communication skills. They teach them how to get along with others, understand and use gestures, follow directions, ask and answer questions and help them with feeding problems and sensory issues with food," she added.

Additionally, occupational therapists can help children with autism improve the integration and use of sensory information to better function in daily life.

About Intermountain Healthcare
Intermountain Healthcare is a nonprofit system of 25 hospitals, 225 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,600 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs.