How Important is Nursing Care to Autistic Children?
Increasing numbers of children are being diagnosed with autism each year. This highlights how important it is that all young kids receive comprehensive screening appointments and referrals are made when necessary.
Autism has many varied forms, but applied behavior analysis therapy is usually an essential part of treatment. Alongside care from a dedicated nurse, treatment can help a child develop social skills and coping mechanisms, enabling them to lead a fulfilling life.
What is autism?
Autism is more commonly referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder. It is a developmental condition with a range of symptoms varying in severity, depending on the individual child’s presentation.
Most affected children will show altered communication skills and struggle to interact in social situations. Both verbal and non-verbal communication can be affected, causing some kids to have difficulty forming relationships with other people. Children with autism may also be unable to alter their behavior in response to a changing environment.
Affected kids often like a strict routine, and any alteration can cause distress. This can make it difficult for these children to deal with unpredictable events. Hyperfixation, sensory processing issues, and abnormal motor behaviors are also common signs of autism.
The importance of an early diagnosis
Diagnosing autism early is essential for achieving the best prospects for the patient and their family. Prompt treatment can improve the long-term outcome and the child’s quality of life. It also ensures that the correct support is in place as soon as possible, enabling the family to care for their child as effectively as possible.
Nurses have a pivotal role in ensuring that all children are screened for autism before the age of 2. To be effective, they must listen to parent concerns and thoroughly understand pediatric behavior to ensure no cases are missed. Nurses must identify all children who need further assessment due to their showing signs of potential autism.
Behavior therapy is the primary treatment for autistic kids. This involves providing the child with speech and language therapy so they can learn skills to help them communicate. Sign language and picture exchange skills can be important support aids alongside discrete trial teaching.
Some children may also need medication to help with behavior therapy. This may only be required for short-term treatment but will be used as part of a treatment plan provided by the patient’s doctor.
Alternative therapies such as music therapy can also be tried alongside behavior treatments and medication. These therapies can provide valuable additional support when combined with conventional treatments.
How nurses provide support for autistic children
Nurses have an essential role in an autistic child’s life, from helping with daily tasks to providing support with medical appointments. Sometimes the support a nurse offers can make the difference between a child being unable to leave the house and them being able to attend school.
Supporting the family starts with providing education. Helping family members recognize signs of autism and understand long-term outcomes is essential for managing their expectations. The resources a nurse can provide are invaluable, as this can be a problematic condition for parents to manage every day.
Nurses are also vital for recognizing when families are not coping and helping provide the support needed for them to thrive. This might require nurses to make a referral to various healthcare professionals for assessments, treatment, and further support.
Care at home
Autistic kids can find typical everyday tasks impossible, so nurses may need to provide personal care. This might involve teaching a child how to dress or can require more intensive support by helping with assisted feeding or toileting.
This care might be required long-term, but in some cases, only short-term assistance might be sufficient if the family is happy to learn to do these tasks themselves. In addition, nurses might need to provide additional support to children attending school settings to ensure they get the best educational opportunities possible.
Autistic children usually have frequent healthcare appointments to attend. These appointments can be difficult for these kids due to the new environments and people they are expected to deal with.
Nurses can help an autistic child by limiting the number of new faces they have to meet, as it helps if the child gets used to the same familiar faces. Children might also need help moving between different environments due to sensory issues. Nurses can also help ensure that appointments are kept to regular times, as autistic kids like routine and predictability.
Nurses provide essential autistic care
Nurses are an essential part of every autistic child’s life, from diagnosis through to treatment. Every child with autism is a unique individual with their own needs. Nurses understand these needs and provide the essential link between helping family members understand autism and ensuring the child gets the best possible care.