Regression – our worst fear

     Every family with a child with autism  hates to see their child have regression of any kind.   It can be a loss of language, a downword spiral of potty training, or return of bad behaviors,  just about any loss of a skill.  No one likes to watch their child take 2 steps forward and than 10 steps back.  It is one of my  least favorite things to deal with, emotionally that is.  It is very heartbreaking to see them lose things that they once had.

     The question is how do you know what caused the regression?  Sometimes we do not know what caused it, that is when we play detective.  With our oldest son, Hunter, we always look for medical reasons for his regression. He is usually very emotional and obsessive compulsive and agressive before he is sick.  He lost a lot of fine motor skills and social skills during the past school year.  That’s when we found out about his multiple food allergies and weak imune system.  It is very disheartening to watch your child lose those precious skills.

      When there is no medical reason or major transition, or life changing event in your child’s life, then you have to play detective.  This is the hardist thing for us, the figuring out what the issue is. Especially difficult to find the reason if your child has limited or no verbal skills to tell you what might be wrong.  This is the case with out youngest, Tristan.  He was recently doing wonderful at potty training, both urine and stool. However, he took  lot of steps backwards recently and its taken us awhile to figure out the issue.

     Its like a mystery to solve the puzzle approach for us.  After doing some thinking and talking to another parent, we figured out the issue.  The routine was broken with potty time when we left our children with the sitter.  My son had diapers on most of the day and this confused him and caused the issue at hand.  It has taken 5 days to get him to go on the potty again and multiple accidents and meltdowns to get there. 

     My 6 hours out for a break has caused way more work than I ever could have imagined.  When children with autism have a routine and its broken, regression is high on the probabilty list.  Our eldest, Hunter was almost potty trained, then we invited a new baby into our lives.  This was a major life changing event for any child.  For my son, however, undiagnosed autistic, it through him over the edge.  Our little quirky things, became giant meltdown problems with a new baby introduced to him.

     When you see regression in your child, and we all do at some point, make sure you are thinking like your child and investigate all the aspects of their lives.  If its medical get a handle on it or go on a hunt for whatever may be causing the problems.  If its a change in routine and its negative for the child in the end, eliminate the change or give the child the tools and ability to cope with it.  Use social stories or picture schedules whenever possible to prepare for changes in the day.  Change is good, but to a child with autism there must be preperations made to help the child cope.

          The importance of your family, friends and team of therapist’s being aware of the child’s routine can not be stressed enough. EVERYONE must be on board with the routine to keep the child from regression.  If people do not want to do what’s best for the child and set rules and limits, its detrimental to the child’s growth and development.  What’s good rule at your house must stay that way at everyone’s house or you will be fighting an endless battle at home.

     Make sure the rules and routines are spelled out and stuck to for your child.  I have learned the hard way, that the routine change can set our children into regression of old bad behaviors that no one likes to see or deal with.  If you can’t send your little ones away for a visit somewhere that the rules of home carry over, then I suggest having people at your house to visit and keeping it that way for sanity sake.  Remember, your child’s success is the most important thing. Constant change in routine, just leads to confusion and frustration for everyone in your house.  The rules are the rules for your child no matter what.


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