Asian Family Health Workgroup: Parent tips on autism
This resource, developed by the Asian Family Health Workgroup, provides parent tips about autism. The resource is available in both English and Chinese.
Why does my child with Special Needs/Autism (ASD) always smell things or other people, or touch things that he’s not supposed to?
For those of us who do not have Autism (ASD) we are able to use our vision and our social
skills to recognize and explore things and keep track of what’s going on around us…but, unlike
kids without ASD, kids with ASD have a lot of sensory differences, especially when it comes to
looking at people and using their vision. For example, most kids with ASD have a very, very hard
time using eye contact in social situations with other people to explore things and figure out
what’s going on. From a very early age, children with ASD find that making eye contact and
using social skills can be very overwhelming. Also, we have learned that most kids with ASD
have a very hard time “filtering out” things in their environment that are bothersome to them
and sorting through what the most important thing to focus on might be, whereas those of us
without ASD can do this automatically without thinking or using too much energy. So, these are
the reasons why sometimes kids with ASD end up using alternative senses to explore their
world and over-use one sense more than another or are unaware of some of their other senses.
My child doesn’t always behave in public and I struggle with how to explain his behavior to others, people judge me.
It’s important for us, as parents, to not just let others know that our kids are different, but to
also help people understand why they are different. For example, instead of saying, “Our son
behaves like that because he has Autism,” it’s better to explain his behaviors and say “He
makes that noise and puts his hands over his ears when he gets overwhelmed, because that is
how Autism affects him. He hears you and he sees you, but he just does it differently.”
My child sometimes wants to play with much younger children.
It’s important to know and understand your child’s “developmental age” which is based on
his developmental delays. This age may be different than how old he is. This can be frustrating
for parents, but if your child has some delays, his social, or play skills may also reflect his delays.
For example, if your child only began to speak or communicate when he was 4 or 5, whereas
most kids begin to do this when they were younger; you may need to adjust what you expect
from him so that he has more time to catch up with these skills. It takes time and patience as
well as using a lot of social stories or visual supports like picture schedules or behavior charts.
Understanding this and using new tools will help you and your child feel less frustrated.
My child does not always behave well in public.
It’s very important for us as parents to help teach behavioral and social rules to our children
from an early age, even if they have special needs. It’s not always easy to teach this to children
with special needs, however there are a lot of tools available that use visuals to help to do this
and it’s most important that the family reinforces these expectations very clearly. By learning
what our kids’ senses and needs are we can help find substitutes and learning tools to help
them to understand these situations. It is important for parents to learn from teachers about
what to do and it takes a lot of practice and consistency to change behavior.
My child plays with his genitals a lot and I am worried about this and I don’t know how to deal with it.
Playing with genitals directly with their hands or by lying down or rubbing on something with
their genitals is normal for all children as they develop and explore their bodies. However, how
children learn to manage this is most important. When a child has Autism, teaching them how
to manage this in combination with their sensory-seeking needs and their more limited ways of
finding enjoyment in social and play activities, can make this a very difficult issue. The sooner a
family helps their child to find a way to more appropriately manage this natural tendency, the
better it will be to reduce that chances that masturbating will become problematic as the child
- First: in a clear way, make sure your child is told or shown that this activity is for
“private time.” So use pictures or few words and show them that this can only be
done in private, such a bedroom or bathroom.
- Second: Although masturbating is a natural tendency, many kids with special
needs use it to satisfy their cravings for deep pressure and sensory input since
this need is not often satisfied during their daily routine. All kids need to move
around and use their bodies enough to receive the important feeling of
satisfaction that most children get from physical play. If a child is not getting this
sensory experience at least three times a day in their daily routines through
running around, rough-housing and playground time, then they will find it on
their own, in any way possible; quite often through masturbation. So, make sure
to offer other options for sensory input for your child at least three times per
day. There are many ways to do this for your child, but it requires a family or
school that is willing to put in the time and effort. You can look at “sensory diet”
ideas on the web or explore the video “No Playground? No Problem!” on the website
www.smallworldspecialneeds.org . It is available in 7 subtitles, including Chinese.
- Third: No matter what your child’s disability is, it is very important that you and
your family take responsibility and initiative to teach them about sexuality issues
so that they do not learn the wrong thing from others.
My child speaks loudly or gets hyper and doesn’t seem to be aware of it, what can I do?
Kids with ASD do not always automatically recognize the subtle sides of social situations, for
example, how others see them or the ability to recognize feelings or emotions in themselves or
others. When a child is “ramping up” or escalating, it’s not usually helpful to tell them to just
“calm down.” Imagine if you were upset and someone told you to “just calm down”? Most
likely, someone saying this to you would only make you feel more upset, and it’s the same for a
child being told to “calm down” when they are so hyper. It is more effective if you use this
moment as a teaching time to reflect to them and say “you are very excited right now.” This can
help them to learn self-awareness, new emotional vocabulary words and to label their feelings.
This is what we call, “a teachable moment.” Then they can learn that “when I behave like this, it
means I am excited and I may need to have a lower voice or calmer body.” Keep in mind that the longer a child has a habit, the longer it may take to create a new way to manage it, so the best thing you can do is to be a consistent, firm and patient teacher to your child. Even consider giving them a small reward, like a hug or a high-five when your child is able to both recognize how they are behaving and then regulate themselves and quiet down. Remember, it takes an average of 85 times to learn a new behavior well, so make sure you have fair expectations for your special child.
- Remember that most kids with ASD have a very hard time making eye contact and it may not appear that they are listening to you when you speak with them or show them something. Instead of telling them to look at you, it’s best to say to them, “Show me how you are listening.” This then becomes something you can learn from your child, so that you can also be his best teacher.
- Remember that parenting is a long process that takes a lot of time and patience. If your child has special needs, it will be critical for you to develop many visual tools to support his skills. You can see many examples of visual tools on the web or look at some on the https://smallworldspecialneeds.org/ website in many languages.
- Remember, most kids take a long time to learn new behaviors whether they have special needs or not. Parenting is best when you have others to share in your challenges and your joys…we encourage you to reach out create a community of support along your journey.
- Remember that NOT every behavior a child has is because they have a disability…many times kids have difficulties just because they’re kids and they are of an age where certain things are challenging, such as sharing!
- One of the best things a parent can do is help to teach their child how to deal with disappointment. Also remember that the concepts you may be trying to teach your child, such as sharing or loving, can be very abstract and hard for them to really understand until they get older. Try to use as many visual aids as possible when you are trying to teach your child these skills because kids with ASD have a hard time when things are not clear, which makes many social issues really hard for them to understand.
- Dr. Clarke shared that it might be helpful to watch some of the TV shows like the “Big Bang Theory” and “Parenthood” because they have characters living with ASD and are portrayed very well.
Chinese Translation 亚洲家庭健康工作组
为什么我具有特殊需求/患有自闭症 (ASD) 的孩子总是闻东西或闻别人，或摸他不应该摸的东西？
情况……但是，不同于未患有自闭症 (ASD) 的儿童，患有自闭症 (ASD)
他的社交或玩耍技能可能也会反映出他的迟缓。例如，如果您的孩子在 4 岁或 5
diet)”创意，或观看网站上的“没操场？没问题！(No Playground? No
• Clarke 医生分享道，观看一些电视节目，例如，《生活大爆炸》(Big Bang
里有患有自闭症 (ASD) 的人物，并且塑造的很好。
This resource created by SPIN