For concerned parents of autistic children, the city-based Pravaag Transitional Centre for Children with Autism on Friday infused a sense of responsibility as well by equipping them with the strategies to make their children concentrate on the daily living skills such as dressing, self-feeding and toileting that are crucial for a person's independence.

Methodologies of task analysis

K.Geetha, Director of the Centre, and S. Sivakumar, Senior Lecturer, District Institute of Education and Training, Kumulur, engaged the parents in a day-long workshop to orient them on the methodologies of task analysis and intervention approach to ensure that the different steps they initiate their autistic children into get embedded in their psyche.

Unlike normal children, autistic children cannot master the self-care tasks through watching and imitating. For instance, there are 21 steps involved in brushing the teeth.

They constitute switching on the light, taking a toothbrush, turning on the tap, wetting the brush, picking tooth paste tube, squeezing it, brushing the teeth, spitting it in the sink, washing the brush, placing the brush back and switching off lights. This sequential routine can be picked up by autistic children only through constant practice under the perennial guidance of parents, Dr. Geetha explained.

Ignorance

It was out of ignorance that parents of autistic children with spectrum disorder think that the latter would learn self-care habits as they grow. Miracles don't happen. Though difficult, each of the different steps has to be taught in a perfect manner. The children need to be motivated to do things by themselves at home where they spend most of their time, the resource persons told the parents.

Parents need to play a proactive role in scheduling tasks like waking up their children, initiating them into toileting, having breakfast and dressing up. Since autistic children lack language and attention skills, the onus, she said, was on parents to pick up non-verbal cues and make the self-care training systematic.

Handouts in Tamil

Only after mastering the daily living skills will autistic children gain ability to sit in school and devote time for study.

Pravaag has conceptualised a plan of action to prepare handouts in Tamil and reach out to parents. The handouts would sensitise fathers to their role in complementing the efforts of mothers in caring for the children. Family members would be made aware of the stress that mothers undergo when they are pushed into a situation of individually monitoring the activities of autistic children.

An exclusive workshop will be conducted in a play way method for fathers and siblings who often feel neglected when parents accord higher attention to autistic children, Dr. Geetha said.

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