KOCHI: Radhika Pillai, a mother of two, is worried. A health worker, she has to join duty on April 27, leaving her kids, aged seven months and eight years, back home.What worries her is the fact that her elder son Hariharan, who is autistic, needs her around for every activity. With schools for children with special needs closed and therapy sessions coming to a halt due to the lockdown, kids like Radhika’s and parents like her are having difficulty in starting a new routine.
“I was on maternity leave and have to join work this month. I do not know how things will work out. My elder son needs me around for everything and would not listen to any other family member,” said Radhika.Hariharan goes for a run and cycling every day. Radhika fears this will stop when she starts working.
“My son belongs to the hyper category and without classes, it is very difficult to manage him. He listens to me only and sometimes it is very difficult to manage his anger. It is difficult to make him sit for hours to attend online therapy classes. We hope the state government arranges a facility through which kids without any Covid-19 symptom can go to class after thorough screening,” she said.
In comparison, the grandparents of Jayden, a five-year-old autistic kid whose parents are abroad, are having a better time managing him. Jayden is enjoying the ‘lockdown vacation’ at his grandparents’ home in Changanassery.“We have set up a routine for him ranging from drawing sessions in the morning to playing time in the evening. As he has been in therapy since he was three years old, he does not cause a huge problem for us,” said Jayden’s grandmother.
Dr Jency Blesson, Joint Director of Jewel Autism and Child Development Centre, Kottayam, said keeping a sense of the their daily routine is one of the major problems that autistic kids face. “Managing sensory issues is a big task for them, but can be handled with therapy. We have released some videos of small activities that kids aged between one and nine can practise at home,” said Dr Jency.
What should parents do?
Parents can adopt some steps to manage their autistic and children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) at home
Since most autistic kids have the habit of putting their hands inside their mouth, they should be taught steps to ensure personal hygiene, like washing hands using soap
How to do it?
Divide and conquer: Split the activity into smaller tasks, like opening the tap, wetting the hands, using the soap to wash and so on
Physical cueing: Only give the required physical support, let them slowly do it on their own
Modelling: Parents should first demonstrate the steps and let the kids follow
Reinforcement: Encourage and applaud them when they complete a step
Food: Hyperactivity and stereotypical behaviour can be controlled through diet. Avoid fried food, chocolates, milk products, sweets, food made of maida and wheat flour
Medicine: Vitamin supplements and medicines for epilepsy should not be discontinued. Call the doctor to review the condition
Regular routine: Since kids can’t go to school or attend therapy, there is a possibility of a change in routines. So, prepare a routine. They must be shown a visual schedule of the activities, like waking up, brushing, playtime and the like.
No phones: Avoid mobile phones and electronic gadgets.
Family’s role: Other members of the family should also engage the children with activities like playing hide and seek, peek-a-boo, playing catch
Daily activities: Involve and train them in activities like placing plates in the sink after lunch, keeping the newspaper at its place, closing the gates, washing their own dishes, arranging shoes on the rack, making the bed and others
Use a broad book and tell a story by showing images
Sensory integration activities
Sensory processing is one of the major difficulties autistic children face. They can follow sensory stimulative activities at home. An occupational therapist can give guidance over phone.
The activities include
Oil massage before bathing
Making dough for chappatis
Rolling mats or blankets
powder, perfume and coffee powder by smell
Activities that can be practised while sitting
Sorting vegetables and grains
Matching fruits (Show a picture and make kids identify the fruit)
Arranging spoon and dish stands
Documentation and follow-up:
Document the kid’s performance at home and consult the therapist once a week
Safety awareness and precautions: Keep an eye on them so that they do not pick any sharp objects. Avoid cold items
Consultant: Dr Jameson Samuel, Director and Chief Consultant, Jewel Autism and Child Development Centre, Kottayam.