Manage all-round development of autistic children

In his commentary, Professor Chong Siow Ann aptly points out the challenges faced by parents of autistic children ("The heartbreak of caring for an autistic child"; June 18).

Attention is also drawn to the long-term support desperately needed by families in the management of these children.

As a special needs teacher, I can understand the frustration, pain and despair that these parents go through day after day.

The behaviour of an autistic child is highly unpredictable, and the tantrums thrown may vary vastly, depending on the situation, activity, environment and the people interacted with. Even the slightest change in routine may trigger a violent and aggressive reaction.

There have been occasions when I, with the help of teacher aides, had to physically pin a child down to prevent him from hurting himself and others.

In the process of doing this, with the child thrashing about to free himself, there is always the possibility of self-inflicted scratches and bruises. We, teachers, too have had our fair share of injuries when we were hit, kicked and bitten by these children.

If their condition is identified at an early stage, early intervention in the form of structured, constant and consistent behaviour modification programmes can help manage their erratic behaviour, to a certain extent.

Autistic children have their strengths too. Some of them are inclined towards music and art, and it would help if their talents are channelled towards these goals.

One such child was picked to participate in a singing competition, and no one would have guessed that he was severely autistic when he was on stage.

The emotional and psychological state of mind of these children is just as important as getting them to cope in their academic endeavours.

Padmini Kesavapany (Mrs)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2016, with the headline 'Manage all-round development of autistic children'. Print Edition | Subscribe