In conjunction with World Autism Awareness
Day 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.
- 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
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!