Article by Psychologist Marinela Antal
Article by Psychologist Marinela Antal
The fixations, the stereotypes, the restricted interests of autistic children are the behaviors that appear as the most obvious, they are easy to notice. If language and communication difficulties also occur in children without autism spectrum disorders, stereotypes, fixations and interests for a particular subject are those that contribute to the degree of autism.
These stereotyped behaviors and attachments are very different from one child to another. There are behavioral stereotypes: walking on the same road, wearing the same clothes, playing with the same toys, behavioral rituals. The motor stereotypes can be: swinging, shaking hands, swirling, finger waving in front of the eyes, shaking hands, blinking and more.
There are also verbal stereotypes: the child prefers certain sounds, words, sentences that repeat them in certain situations or without apparent connection with the context in which they appear. Restricted areas of interest: Children with autism or autistic elements may have persistent interest for a smell, for certain textures (metal, wood, rough, fine, hard, etc.), for sounds and for certain foods.
The main difficulty is the child's refusal to orient himself towards other experiences - towards other smells, other toys, other foods. In some children there are interests for a certain activity: computer, magazine images, magazine browsing, TV commercials or certain topics of discussion: about the clock, about icons, about death etc.
These stereotypes, fixations and interests for certain objects and activities are closely linked to the child's level of communication. An important feature observed by most parents is that these stereotypes that disappear and appear have a certain dynamic over time.
There is a time when these behaviors occur, then the child's interest in these objects or activities disappears and other interests, other stereotypical behaviors appear. This dynamic of stereotyped behaviors: their occurrence and disappearance cannot be linked to certain external events. They seem to be incomprehensible to someone other than the child.
The main characteristic of stereotyped behaviors is that the child with autistic difficulties cannot easily give up, and that these behaviors have a solid internal motivation. However the challenge of the child to other experiences, focusing his attention on something else will not make him give up these interests and fixations.
What can we do?
Hard to accept and model, these behaviors of the autistic child put a barrier between us and them. What can we do so that we can help them and help us overcome this barrier? A first step is to work with them, but also with us: usually the child is often asked to change these behaviors. The mere fact that these behaviors exist and are persistent makes us understand that they do not change easily. It is necessary for us adults around the child with autism to understand what these behaviors play in the child's life.
We need to understand what makes sense for the child with autistic difficulties and autistic elements to help him / her best. How much the child needs these stereotypes is a very important and difficult question at the same time. That is, what does the child do when he is not able to resort to these behaviors? Do they develop other behaviors of this kind? - If yes then it is clear that the child currently needs them and we need to find another way to "work" with them.
The parent usually feels the child best: he knows the answer to these questions. Often the suffering of parents causes the parent to lose this ability to feel the child. And here comes the possibility of the parent working with himself, with what he feels towards himself, towards the child, towards the others. The spiritual burden that the experience of having a child with autism brings is great. Moreover, this load increases when the child manifests itself through stereotyped behaviors, fixations.
CPAP - Center for Action Psychology and Psychotherapy organizes monthly meetings with parents of children with autism / pervasive developmental disorder, Asperger syndrome, autistic elements.
The next meeting is May 26-27, 2007.
Contact person: psychologist Cristina Calarasanu
021 317 40 43
0729 752 145