Mum pens six helpful tips when raising a happy autistic child

JESSIE HEWITSON had heard of autism, but didn’t really understand the condition until her son was born.

He was diagnosed with it at the age of two and Jessie, a journalist, has used her experiences to write a book – How to Raise a Happy Autistic Child.

 This is a must have book for any parents of autistic children

Handout

This is a must have book for any parents of autistic children

It is full of tips and insights into the condition – which is believed to affect 700,000 people in the UK.

Here, in an exclusive extract, are some of her helpful pointers.

 

STRUCTURE

This is essential for an autistic child. Some find uncertainty physically painful and structuring things means there’s a beginning and an end.

It’s the difference between a board game – which has a clear set of rules – and a dressing-up box.

 

NUMBER LINES

Dr Debora Elijah, a cognitive neuropsychologist, suggests creating a number line to help your child get dressed.

The night before, lay out their clothes in five piles, write the numbers 1 to 5 on different Post-it notes and stick a number on each item of clothing. So, for example, 1 is for pants, 2 for trousers and so on, with the last one a reward, perhaps five minutes playing on the iPad or bouncing on the trampoline.

 

VISUAL TIMETABLES

These can help bring a sense or order to the world, allowing your child to see what’s going to happen now and next and to check off what they’ve already done.

Write down times, days and activities, adding pictures or photographs of what they’ll be doing and with whom.You can buy ready-made visual timetable kits from websites such as Asdvisualaids.com.

Apps such as First Then Visual Schedule (iOS, £9.99) allow you to create a visual timetable on your smartphone or iPad.

 There are a few small things you can do which can make the world of difference to your child's happiness

Alamy

There are a few small things you can do which can make the world of difference to your child’s happiness

VISITING

When we visit friends for the first time, I ask them to email pictures of themselves and their home so we can look at them together so they will later look familiar. You could create a visual timetable for the day and agree beforehand with your friend when you will be leaving, so you can let your child know.

 

TRANSITIONS

The sky can also feel like it’s falling in for an autistic child if they are asked to move from one all-consuming task to something else. Giving them advance warning can become second nature – dinner is in five minutes; we’re turning off the TV in ten minutes; I’ll need you to brush your teeth after that.

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SLEEP

The depressing reality seems to be that some autistic children don’t appear to need much kip.

Many studies have established a link between autism, poor sleep patterns and an irregular production of melatonin, which is secreted by the pea-sized pituitary gland at the base of the brain.

It isn’t that autistic children don’t produce it, just they don’t produce it at the right time. Melatonin in tablet or drop form, prescribed by your GP, can help children who struggle to fall asleep.

How to Raise a Happy Autistic Child by Jessie Hewitson (Orion, £14.99) is out now. Autistic boy lands singing deal after singing in Asda and he already wants to write a Christmas charity single !function(f,b,e,v,n,t,s){if(f.fbq)return;n=f.fbq=function(){n.callMethod? n.callMethod.apply(n,arguments):n.queue.push(arguments)};if(!f._fbq)f._fbq=n; n.push=n;n.loaded=!0;n.version=’2.0′;n.queue=[];t=b.createElement(e);t.async=!0; t.src=v;s=b.getElementsByTagName(e)[0];s.parentNode.insertBefore(t,s)}(window, document,’script’,’https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/fbevents.js’); fbq(‘init’, ‘752905198150451’); fbq(‘track’, “PageView”);

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