Raising special needs or autistic children comes with various challenges. Since autism is a spectrum disorder, the extent to which a child is affected may vary - from the way they communicate to the way their interact, learn, behave, and socialize. One of the many things that often worries parents with autistic children is when they reached puberty or being in a relationship. To help many parents out there, we have Dr Deibby Mamahit\u2014the Founder and director of Brainworks, a functional health centre for Autism, ADHD, developmental and mood disorders. Dr Deibby Mamahit, the Founder and director of Brainworks. Dr Deibby answered some of the frequently asked questions by parents with autistic children. We hope this can help you as well. 1. What can I do to help my autistic child learn about emotions and improve his ability to express and respond to emotions? Dr Deibby Mamahit: One biggest feature of autism is the difficulty to express emotion and understand social interactions. They might not notice when others are upset or angry. They might show less concern for others and have less ability to comfort others or share emotions. When it comes to teaching children with autism about emotion, we need to prioritise our own relationship building with our child. There is a need of having the attitude of total acceptance and unconditional love in how we feel and approach our kids in the spectrum. Be a good role model at home at how to recognise others' emotions, how to handle emotional situations, how to relate to one another. On top of it, many of the children in the spectrum have neuroinflammation. By understanding their condition and providing them good food, avoiding inflammatory food, providing them good lifestyle with love, proper rest, relaxation and exercise, many of these individuals felt that they are calmer and more focused. This can lead to better abilities in controlling and expressing emotion. 2. Parenting a child with autism during a pandemic can present an abundance of unique challenges. What should I do to stay sane and remain calm with my autistic kid? Dr Deibby Mamahit: Firstly, let's consider the situation where our children with autism have to stay at home as an opportunity. For many of my clients, the kids are actually having so much progress during this period\u2014increased time between parent and the child at home\u2014if the parents have the right mindset and understand what to do. Many of our kids have neuroinflammation. It means some of the mundane sight, sound, sensory inputs that are not significant to us are very disturbing to them. By staying in the house, we are allowing them to rest their senses. We can have better control of the food that we are providing them while we are home. We can actually plan to have more one to one time with our kids. No time is wasted when we are with our autistic children. As this is the way we show our acceptance and care toward them. One very important aspect is also to show that same kindness and love towards yourself. Stop being judgmental towards yourself. Learn to be happy without external stimuli. Get in touch with a loving community like Mum Space where you would be reminded to have self-love and care. 3. Children with autism feel more comfortable with routines, which can make any change a stressful event. Ever since the pandemic, I had a hard time recreating his schedule and daily routines. What can I do to make this easy for both of us? Dr Deibby Mamahit: You need to step back and see the bigger picture. Start creating new routines. Please create a new schedule and have fun with it. What is your priority? If you dig deeper into yourself, you might be able to discover that above all else, you want your child to thrive and to be better. To be happy and healthy. Let\u2019s not get carried away with what you should do as per the demands you got from school and\/or society and let's begin with what\u2019s best for your child and yourself. 4. Ever since my special kid is born, one thing that I am most worried about is, how can I prepare him for puberty? Dr Deibby Mamahit: First, being worried is not a part of a solution. Our special child needs the right environment to grow, the right type of nutrients to heal and get better, need proper rest, enough hydration and total acceptance and love. If you are doing all these, let me congratulate you for being in the direction where your child can thrive. Puberty is an exciting and also scary period. It's normal for the start of puberty to range from 8-13 years in girls and 9-14 years in boys. We don\u2019t know the exact time your child will start puberty. Many children with special needs started having challenging conditions like seizure activities during puberty. Aside from the pathologies that they have to adjust to the changes in their bodies. Give them a lot of stories and pictorial explanations so they can anticipate the changes. You may also use social stories on recognising the changes and accept them as a part of themselves. 5. I understand that autistic children often need a longer time to adjust and understand the changes in their lives. When the time comes, how can I prepare my autistic girl for her period - what should I start with and etc.? Dr Deibby Mamahit: You may start by sharing social stories on experiences pertaining to having a period. These social stories are very useful. You may choose one that makes you feel most comfortable and suitable for your daughter\u2019s needs. You can take her to shop and spend time with you to buy the necessity for her period. This outing is important so she would not associate it with a threatening event but something she can look forward to. Try to be calm and be at peace about it and do your best to not sound like it is so difficult or scary as it\u2019s a part of her life as a woman. 6. What can I do to help my child manage her mood changes and emotional symptoms before and during periods? Dr Deibby Mamahit: Different females will have different experiences during their period. Please observe her mood, emotion and how her period impacted her. Based on your observation, during her period, try to schedule rest for her with you around. This will help you to check for pain or discomfort, any difficulties that she may have during her period. Try to plot her menstrual cycle and help her predict the timing for the period. This will help to create a new routine for her. This will create predictability and decrease fear and anxiety about the unknown. 7. When he\/she grows up, how can I help him\/her to recognise attraction and romantic feelings? Autistic children do develop romantic feelings just as other children as well right? Dr Deibby Mamahit: Many individuals with autism crave intimacy and love. But, they don't know how to achieve it in a romantic relationship. They can feel blind to everyday subtle social cues from their counterpart. This can cause conflict and hurt feelings. You can use social stories to tell his or her about romantic feeling, physical attraction, about the concept of wanting to have someone more than friends. We can use stories and examples to portray intimacy. To do and not to do with intimacy. To know what are the things within his\/her control and those things beyond his or her control. 8. What about when the relationships end? What can I do to support my autistic child to handle it? Dr Deibby Mamahit: Individuals with autism often have a desire for intimacy and companionship. However, difficulties in interacting socially are a key feature of autism, which makes finding a partner and making a relationship work more difficult. Despite many individuals with autism may have successful relationships, chances are the possibility of breaking up is high. The features that define autism\u2014including sensory and emotional issues, repetitive behaviours and missing social nuance\u2014can make it hard for them to cope and to be understood. It would be a very devastating situation if the relationship does not work out. Be there for them in person. Do not need to say much or ask many questions. Quiet companionship with the attitude of total acceptance and no judgements \u2013 more often than not is something that they might appreciate better Parents, no matter how challenging it can be, do know that there is always a rainbow after the rain. Through ups and downs, the children bring happiness and enhance the relationship between the family. Mamahood would like to thank Dr Deibby Mamahit for her insightful sharing.\u00a0For your information, Dr Deibby is also one of the speakers at\u00a0Maybank\u2019s Parenting Webinar Series back in October. We hope this sharing is beneficial to all of our readers, especially parents with autistic children. Stay tuned to Mamahood Story for more parenting tips and discussions with experts!