Dealing With Rejection - Social Rejection of Autistic Child
Created by Dayamati Ingle Updated on Mar 05, 2020
Along with the diverse challenges that are a part of autism, one of the major issues is social integration for our kids. Being an ‘atypical’ puts you on the other side of the boundary. Culturally, we are a population which is receptive and warm to even strangers, but in this case, the dynamics change. On a personal front, my son who is on the ASD spectrum had to face rejection and alienation from his peers as he could not fit it. His mode of communication and behaviour set him apart from the rest.
In order to make him socially prepared, we enrolled him into an evening play class where kids would come, play, pray together, eat their tiffins and go home. However, due to his restlessness and limited communication, he was unable to participate in the activities and ended up disrupting the activities. We were told not to send him to the class as they felt that he disturbed the other children and acted ‘mental’.
On one occasion, we were asked to evacuate a play area with inflated slides with the reason that his hyperactivity and manner of playing posed a threat to other children’s safety.
My initial reaction was that of anger and deep hurt about the insensitivity that we faced from other children and their parents. However, later it set me thinking. Had my child been a regular kid, would I have been empathetic to another child who had different needs? Was it fair to expect other kids to show patience and take efforts to understand my child, interact and play with him? The answer was a clear no.
Post the diagnosis and being in denial for almost 6 months, we moved ahead with all possible therapeutic interventions. Luckily we got a lot of support on the home front. I found a strong ally in my mother in law who involved herself in the process of closely observing his behaviour and guiding us with certain insights. We came together as a family to help and support Tejas in whatever way possible.
Tejas had sensory issues. He was very sensitive to loud noises and hence we avoided attending big gatherings and crowded and noisy places to ease his discomfort. As he was also sensitive to certain textures, we dressed him clothes which were comfortable rather than ceremonial during festivals.
I realized that it was not easy for people to understand what we needed in terms of support. We got a lot of advice ranging from having another child, which in turn would help Tejas mellow down to disciplining him etc. However we had a deep conviction that if we focused on building his language, social skills and life skills, he would be able to overcome many of his challenges.
Bringing About A Positive Change
Bringing an overall change to Tejas’ issues became a structured process wherein we took the following steps:
Change of school: Many parents who are into denial even after the diagnosis aspire to have their child study in a regular school. Even-though in some cases, certain kids gradually learn to cope with academics. It becomes an ordeal as they are unable to socially connect with their peer group and hence become social outcasts.
In Tejas’s previous school, we used to receive endless complaints with regard to his lack of attention and behaviour. It suddenly struck us that we were doing a disservice to our own child by having him attend a school that was not equipped to handle his issues. We changed his school to a school which had the resources and expertise to cater to children with certain needs. This not only had a positive impact on Tejas but also put our minds at ease.
Regular and Sustained Therapy: Therapeutic intervention is the most important resource for dealing with autism in a progressive and meaningful way. We started with occupational therapy which helped in reducing his hyperactivity and restlessness, speech therapy to build his speech and language skills and special education which ensured he learnt with an approach and pace at which he was comfortable with.
Since the time spent per therapy session used to be limited, we followed up on the various techniques and activities at home.
Putting on a Happy Face: Tejas liked to observe our facial expressions and imitate us. We made it a point to be cheerful and happy and that created a lot of positive energy at home and enabled us to have the right mindset to focus on our approach and techniques.
Teaching Social Behavior
Exposure to social situations: As the therapies started making a positive difference, we introduced Tejas to different social settings. We started to take him for picnics, family functions and public outings. Initially, it was a little difficult but gradually, he got accustomed to the external environment.
Social stories: We also relied heavily on social stories to teach situational behaviour to our son. Social stories are stories about situations depicted in a structured pictorial format and have various themes ranging from ‘going for shopping’ to ‘sharing your things’ etc. The stories provide an easy and effective way for a child to get familiarized with different social settings and cues for appropriate behaviour. Hence, Tejas found it easier to deal with day to day situations with calm and confidence.
Other Factors That Worked In Our Favour
Sports – We enrolled Tejas for swimming lessons and taught him to cycle. Physical activities helped a lot in curbing his hyperactivity and increased his focus as well as attention span.
Using aids - We used a lot of picture-based flashcards and computer-based games. For instance, in one of the games, the person on screen would read the words aloud and the same words would get highlighted ( www.starfall.com.) This helped him to strengthen his language and vocabulary.
Loads of love and encouragement – We encouraged Tejas to explore his environment and create opportunities for him to showcase his talent in singing and dance.
Focus on life skills – We lay a lot of emphasis on building his life skills. For instance, one of them was crossing the road. We used clear and specific instructions and demonstrated how it was done. Over a period of time with practice ( under our supervision) he was finally able to do it on his own.
Music – Music played an important role in calming down Tejas when he would be agitated about something. Tejas liked the piano, so we enrolled him for piano lessons. Apart from having a calming effect, it also built his concentration and focus.
All the above factors not only helped Tejas in overcoming his challenges but also helped him become a confident and vibrant person. Tejas is now 18 and has completed his grade 10 from NIOS. At present, he is at ‘ARUNIMA’, a residential training centre at Dehradun. Recently he travelled on his own from Mumbai to Dehradun.
Message to Other Parents
It is perfectly fine to feel disheartened once we know our child is autistic. However, remember the diagnosis is not his identity. Our child is much more than that, and with the right intervention and support can do very well.
Avoid comparing the child with other kids, typical or otherwise.
Stay focussed. Do not let others decide if your child can/ cannot ‘fit in’.
Keep going and the results will show in due course of time.
Love unconditionally. It is your child’s biggest strength and source of confidence.
Image Source: https://www.433aw.afrc.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1820779/april-highlights-autism-awareness/