A Gift of Sight: Visual Perception Treatment for Autistic
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
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
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