Don't break the routine

Updated: Apr 02, 2020, 08:56 IST | Sukanya Datta | Mumbai

On World Autism Awareness Day, an expert lists activities that parents can engage spectrum kids in, now that therapy centres are shut

Prerana Mandle and her son practise writing letters in a plate of flour
Prerana Mandle and her son practise writing letters in a plate of flour

Ever since his friends stopped coming over for home-schooling in the past few weeks, eight-year-old Tanav Kishor Mandle, who has autism spectrum disorder, has been refusing to study, says his mother Prerana. "We're focusing on planting, drawing, playing board games, etc, but when we start home-schooling again, Tanav may be resistant as the routine has been disrupted," says the Borivali resident. For kids like him, the closure of schools and therapy centres has meant a break in their daily pattern, which is crucial for their well-being as changes are difficult for them to process, says Reena Singh, occupational therapist and founder of city-based Khushi Paediatric Therapy Centre. It has also left parents worried about their progress being hindered. "Although one can't replace professional therapy, parents can continue similar activities at home," says Singh. On World Autism Awareness Day, we take a look at a few such basic activities.

Treat for the senses
The aim of occupational therapy is sensory integration of vestibular, proprioception and tactile systems, explains Singh. For vestibular stimulus, or awareness of body balance, parents can play Ring a' ring o' roses or use a swing at home. "Proprioception involves active contraction of muscles so kids can do chores like cleaning windows or brooming; bounce on therapy balls; play hopscotch; or do yoga." For tactile stimulus, children can play with dough or eat food with their hands, while parents can massage them during their bath time.

Mandle says Tanav has been learning gardening and helping her with chores during this period
Mandle says Tanav has been learning gardening and helping her with chores during this period

Say it with love
Behaviour and speech therapy involves giving instructions, and making sure the young ones respond and are able to express their needs. "Get your child to bring you plates or spoons at meal time. Note if they are able to tell you what they need throughout the day," shares Singh. Mandle, whose son didn't quite take to speech therapy, adds that if the kids are unhappy doing an activity, parents should take the cue that they are rejecting it.

Keep calm
Singh asserts that the most important thing to note is that if parents are too stressed about therapy, then children pick that up. "If you are worked up, then it's better to not take up any activity," she says, adding that parents must prepare the child visually for the activities. "They can pick and choose some of the activities, but not everything. If a child is upset, be available to them emotionally and they will calm down," she suggests. Mandle, too, agrees and adds that this is the perfect phase to take a break from round-the-clock therapy and academics. "Spend quality time with your child and teach them life skills like washing, folding clothes, peeling vegetables, etc. This is more essential than academics," she suggests.

Reena Singh
Reena Singh

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