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Parenting Corner - Keeping children with autism hydrated

In this intense heat, the body needs fluids and it is important we drink enough water. Children in particular need to be reminded to drink enough water as they tend to forget to do so.

Children, unlike adults, are more active physically and need more water. This is especially true in the summer season. Not drinking enough water can cause lead to nausea or vomiting, and headaches.

Some common effects of dehydration are cramps, constipation, headache, lethargy, irritability, etc. In a worst case scenario, a person may even experience serious medical issues.

In the case of children with autism, parents need to be especially watchful as they may not realise they are thirsty and ask for water. Poorna Balaji, member of Chennai-based parent support group Special Child Assistance Network (SCAN), says its a good idea to give kids water every hour. "During summer, every hour, we should ensure they drink at least a glass of water. They should be given fruit juice in the morning and evening and coconut water. Also its good to avoid going out during the daytime and use caps to cover the head.

Broadly, here are some tips for parents to consider -

  • Children with autism tend to have more digestive issues and need a proper fluid intake to remain healthier.
  • Parents of children with autism can help them drink more water by making it a regular habit with them.
  • Parents should keep track of the daily water consumption of the child. This can be done by making a note when the child has water or setting a reminder on the phone.
  • Encourage the child to eat fruits, drink juices.
  • Teach by example and drink water yourself so the child will follow you.

Hydration in summer is essential with everyone yet even more crucial for our children with special needs. These kids have differently wired neurological system and hence they sweat a lot. Also during summer their anxiety behaviour goes up owing to heat change in routines as they can't venture out as they used to. This make their neurological system heat up. It will be dangerous if enough oxygen is not supplemented to body and also urination becomes an issue with less water in the body. There will be possibility of viral infection if not flushed out. All these issues they can't relate will lead them come up with behaviour issues. - Gayathri Sridhar, Parent

It is important to understand that water is extremely important for our good health and is something that needs to be consumed regularly. Children are not self-aware to know this and thus rely on the parents or grownups around them to look after them.

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