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A Gift of Sight: Visual Perception Treatment for Autistic Children

Autism affects every child differently, so it is difficult to find the exact treatments your child needs to cope with his or her symptoms. One thing that effects some autistic children (though, not all) is problems with visual perception. By using some standardized methods to help improve visual perception, you can give your child the ability to see the world more clearly. This makes learning and comprehension easier for the autistic child and may possibly curb some behavior problems as well.

Autistic children mainly have problems with sensory overload and distortion. Since these types of problems also occur in people without autism, there are many treatment options available for these issues. Individuals with autism often find, however, that the sensory overload of the world due to light, colors, contrast, shapes, and patterns, is too much to handle. This overload causes them to act out or shut down in general. This tendency is sometimes a genetic condition that becomes stronger and more noticeable due to autism's influence. If the child's parents have trouble with reading or were treated for visual perceptive problems, there is a good chance that the child needs help as well.

The Irene Method is one effective way to treat visual perception disorders. This method uses color to create a more harmonized world. You may have heard of these methods if anyone has ever suggested using a color filter over the page when reading to be able to read it better and more quickly. This method is proven to work. If your autistic child is at the maturity level of reading, you may want to try these color filters to see if there is a difference in speed and comprehension. However, it is more likely that your autistic child will benefit from color filters during the entire day, not just when reading. Special glasses are available using colored lenses to conquer this problem. Not every child responds the same way to every color; so it is a process of trial and error to find out which color is the one that blocks the harmful light. You can also choose to use colored light bulbs in your home to help autistic individuals with their visual perception problems.

This method mainly helps children in 4 areas: depth perception, social interaction, learning, and physical well being. The colors help the child determine how far he or she is from an object, and the world becomes more three-dimensional through increased depth perception. Social interaction also improves because the child feels as though he or she is in a calmer world and can more clearly see and interpret facial expressions. The colors make it possible to learn, especially when reading. Overall, the child will feel better, because it helps reduce headaches and dizziness. By testing this technique and others to help visual perception problems, you can help your child better cope with the world and his or her autism.

Achieving Self-control with Autism

Self-discipline is a skill that most autistic children have trouble acquiring. This includes not only inappropriate outbursts, but also habits that can be potentially dangerous. These negative habits include being aggressive towards others or causing harm to themselves, banging their head on walls, for example. To prevent these and other behaviors, one technique parents and educators can use to control autistic tendencies is self-management. Giving the child power over his self is often the key to keeping control over violent situations. Acquiring self-control may be a positive step towards learning other behaviors as well.

Self-management works because the child is no longer fully controlled by others. By teaching self-management during specific times of day, such as while the child is at school or therapy; the child will be more likely to continue to practicing self-control throughout the day. The key is to implement a program in which he or she monitors his or her own behavior and activities. Begin with short amounts of time, and continue to monitor the child from a more passive standpoint. Every ten to fifteen minutes remind the child that he or she is in control and needs to be aware and monitor his good and bad behavior.

This monitoring is a form of self-evaluation. When a child is in control, he or she may think more closely about behavior in the past and present. Set clear goals with the child. For example, an afternoon with no aggression towards others or a day at school with no self-injury earns a reward. Every fifteen minutes ask the child how he or she is doing. Is the goal being met? If the answer is no, perhaps the child is not ready for self-management, or perhaps the goal too optimistic and not yet attainable. You want to make sure that the goals are easy to reach at first, and then move the child towards goals that are more difficult in the future. When a child is successful at self-monitoring, he or she will have a more positive attitude towards the experience.

Of course, an important part of self-management is a rewards system. Have the child come up with his or her own reward, depending on interest. Reinforcement will make these good behavior goals more clearly marked in the child's mind. By choosing and rewarding him- or herself, the child will feel completely in control of the self-management system. Choose simple rewards to start, such as smiley faces for every goal met, and sad faces for every goal not attained. Later, when the child has had some practice with the technique, work up to a larger reward. Again, let the child choose, but a suggestion would be a special activity or new toy when a certain amount of smiley faces are attained.

These types of programs are not successful overnight; so it is important that you and the child have enough time to devote to a self-management experience. By reinforcing good behavior with rewards, as determined by the child instead of by an adult, he or she will be more likely to continue on with the practice even when not participating in the program. If your autistic child is mature enough, this could be a good treatment program to try.

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Derek Barrington Essex UK

ędb Publishing