As Rainbow foster care services will be at this year’s Autism Show – The National Event for Autism – which is being held in London, Birmingham and Manchester this June – we are featuring a series of Blogs on aspects providing foster care for children with autism.
Afshan Ahmad, Rainbow Fostering Services Director, will be making a presentation on the subject of ‘Autism and Fostering’ at both the Birmingham and Manchester shows.
So, it is timely to look at foster care for children who are on the Autistic Spectrum. Many foster carers, after all, specialise in caring for these children. They tend to report that looking after these children and young people can be challenging, but the rewards can be considerable.
What does it mean to foster a child with Autistic Spectrum disorder (ASD)? What are the issues raised and how does the experience differ from caring for a child who does not have ASD? Firstly, it is important to understand that children who have ASD see and experience the world very differently. Depending on the severity of their disorder, the foster care they will need will be of a particular nature. The disorder will have effects on the individual development of a child or young person. These will impact on their character and personality traits. There had long been a widely held belief that autism only affected those regions of the brain that control social interaction, reasoning and communication. Research is now challenging this view, suggesting, instead, that the entire brain is affected by the disorder. There are certain elements of the disorder that have general effects broadly similar in nature. ASD children do not cope well with unpredictability and are uncomfortable with spontaneity. They have a liking for fixed routines. Such children cope poorly with change or novel situations. This is important for a foster carer to know, so that any trips, outings or holidays are planned well in advance. Depending on the severity of the disorder, planning may need to be quite detailed. This could involve discussion with a child – well ahead of a particular trip or holiday.
Foster care will need to be highly organised
Life in the home may need to be rigidly organised. Routines should be set down, i.e. mealtimes and bedtime always remaining the same. A foster carer may need to create a daily/weekly schedule setting out the timings of events such as going to and returning from school. ASD children inhabit a world where their comfort and reassurance is underpinned by constancy and uniformity. Fostering an ASD child means a foster carer will have to adapt their lives to the complex needs of the child. Recalling the self evident truth that ‘The only constant in life is change’, highlights the main task and challenge of a foster carer: to manage change. This means that a foster carer will need to be creative, flexible and adaptable themselves.
It is also important to be sensitive to language that is used. Research* published in the ‘Autism’ journal in 2015 examined the preferences of people on the autism spectrum – as well as their families and friends. It was found that there is no single term that satisfies everyone. The Survey responses generated from 3,470 people were examined; these included 502 autistic adults, 2,207 parents of children and adults on the autism spectrum, 1,109 professionals, and 380 extended family members and friends. It emerged that all the different groups responded positively to the term ‘on the autism spectrum’ and ‘Asperger Syndrome’. Adults with autism preferred the terms ‘autistic’ and ‘Aspie” . Families did not like the term ‘Aspie’. Dislike was expressed toward older terminology such as ‘low functioning’ or ‘classic autism’.
It is important that attention is paid to the terms that are in general usage as attitudes can be shaped according to the language used. ‘On the autism spectrum’ is the description that seems to be accepted by most people.
Consider training to be a therapeutic foster and care for an autistic child
Anyone can become a therapeutic foster carer irrespective of their ethnicity, background or sexual identity. The most important thing is that they understand they will have to provide love, stability and security in a consistent and dedicated way. The role also involves providing close support to a therapeutic recovery plan that will have been put in place for an individual child or young person.
We will also provide specialist training on a regular basis. This means that it’s possible to build a career in therapeutic fostering and benefit financially from enhanced payment rates. A lot more information available about foster care on 020 8427 3355, or you can use our National foster care line which is 0330 311 2845. Remember, you can also apply online and arrange a call back at a time that will be convenient to you.
There are plenty of Rainbow fostering news stories to be read at:
Foster care services in Suffolk need more carers
8th June, 2018
More people are being invited to consider becoming foster parents in Suffolk. Fostering services there have stated that they need to find twenty five new foster carers annually for (more)