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Preparing your child with autism for World Autism Awareness Day and other events!

By March 16, 2016 December 31st, 2018 No Comments

In conjunction with World Autism Awareness
on the 2nd of April, we will be hosting an event at UCSI
University’s North Wing. This is going to be an exciting event, where there
will be a special ‘Paint For Autism’ project, a presentation by Dr. Nan Huai
from our parent company (Wisconsin Early Autism Project), information booths,
fun activities for the kids as well as special performances.

Now, for most of us, events like these are
fun and enjoyable, and we look forward to attending them. Whether it’s a family
reunion during the festive season, a birthday party, or a school concert,
events are a part of life. However, for a child with autism, it can be a rather
painful experience and this may in turn affect the family’s ability to enjoy an
event as well.

If you think about it, there are several
factors why big events like these can be stressful for a child with autism.
Firstly, it is held at a location that the child is unfamiliar with or may have
never even seen before. Next, there is going to be a crowd and various sounds
and noises that may cause distress to the child. Let’s not forget the fact that
the child is unaware of the flow of events, and is simply brought along from one place to
another. Thereafter, being put in a situation that is already causing distress,
they are expected to perform challenging tasks like greeting a stranger or
interacting with other children they have never met before. These are just some of the challenges they may face.

So, we decided to come up with some simple
strategies to help you help your child.

  1. Communicate
  • No one likes to feel like they are dragged around without
    being told what is happening. Hence, it is crucial that a child with autism is
    informed when something is about to happen, and spare no details. Here at EAP
    Malaysia, we like to use Social Stories to prepare our children for a situation
    or an event.
  • A social story essentially depicts the
    event or situation that is about to happen. It contains a script and
    supplementary pictures to effectively communicate to the child, as most
    children on the spectrum are visual learners. Social stories are usually
    individualised to the child, and written according to the child’s literacy and
    skill sets.
  • More details on how to write a social story
    can be found here.
  • We’ve prepared a social story you can use for your child with autism for World Autism Awareness Day! You can download it HERE and print it out!
  1. Give predictability
  • No one likes to think they’re going
    somewhere they like, only to find out plans have changed at the very last
  • As you communicate to your child, it is
    also important to let him/her know when the event will be happening. You could
    put the event on a calendar and count down the days to the event. Hopefully
    when the day of the event comes, the child has already been prepared for it.
  • At the event itself, it would be good to
    let the child know about the flow of the day. You could tell your child about
    some of the activities he/she will be participating in, perhaps even writing it
    down so that the child can refer to it, and cross off each activity as you go
    along. If your child understands the concept of time, you could let them know
    what time you will be leaving the event, or set a timer for each activity so
    that the child is aware of how long more they are required to participate.
  • We’ve come up with a visual schedule you can use for the day. Do take note that this visual schedule is flexible, depending on individual families as well as the needs of your child. You can download it HERE.
  1. Set expectations
  • No one likes to be doing something, only to
    find out they did it wrongly or failed to meet expectations.
  • Children on the spectrum are usually
    unaware of the unspoken rules and behaviours that we would expect at an event.
    They may often engage in behaviours that are socially inappropriate, even more
    so if they are in a stressful situation. Hence, it is important that certain
    rules and expectations are established prior to the event. For some of these
    expectations, they might need to be practiced beforehand in a safe environment,
    for example, wishing the birthday boy/girl “Happy Birthday” while at a birthday
  • Some basic rules and expectations can
    include: staying with family, listen to mom/dad, talking nicely and nice hands.
    They key is to set your child up to be successful. There may be many rules and
    expectations you want your child to adhere to, but do think about the
    priorities specific to the situation, and set expectations according to what
    you think your child can achieve.
  • We’ve also prepared a rule card for you to use! Download it HERE!
  1. Affirm
  • Everyone likes to be assured and praised
    for something they have done well. Likewise, if a child is rewarded for a
    particular behaviour they have demonstrated, they are more likely to
    demonstrate that good behaviour again in the future. Let your child know when
    they are coping well with the event; praise him/her for talking nicely instead
    of shouting or crying. If your child coped well at the event and participated
    to his/her best ability, reward the child with something they like after the
    event (e.g. ice cream, trip to the toy store).
  • Just because a family is affected by autism
    does not mean they can no longer attend events or go on trips. Attending an
    event together as a family is one of the most fulfilling experiences, and here
    at EAP Malaysia, we want to journey with you to help your family live a
    fulfilling life as well.

We hope that this article and the free resources provided will help you. We can’t wait to see you on the 2nd of April!