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Managing Childhood Autism with Wellness

Updated on April 5, 2018
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I am a special needs counselor for grade K-5 and I have a bachelor's degree in Applied Psychology. I've worked with children for 5+ years.

Dimensions of Wellness

For the purpose of this article, I will be making use of my personal definition of wellness, which I developed with help from the South African Journal of Psychology. Wellness to me is a set of deliberate and desirable lifestyle choice characterized by personal responsibility and optimal enhancement of physical, mental, and spiritual health that apply to the domains of a person’s life, such as financial situations, personal relationships, and physical health.

There are eight dimensions of wellness: emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social, and spiritual.

Emotional wellness is about coping effectively with life and creating satisfying relationships. Environmental wellness focuses on good health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that support a person’s overall well-being. Financial wellness is based on the satisfaction an individual has with their current and future financial situations. Intellectual wellness is the identification of creative abilities and the ways in which a person finds ways to expand their knowledge and skills. Occupational wellness is the personal satisfaction and enrichment an individual obtains from their work. Physical wellness is based on a person’s individual understanding of their need for physical activity, healthy foods, and sleep. Social wellness is about developing a connection, belonging, and a well-developed support system. Spiritual wellness is focused on expanding the sense of purpose and meaning a person has in their life.

Social Practices and Force for Social Change

One social practice that has a large effect on wellness is unhealthy alcohol consumption, which can negatively affect many of the dimensions of wellness.

For instance drinking in excess is costly and can negatively impact a person’s financial wealth, a lack of financial wellness and stability can lead to stress which impacts emotional wellness, and finally having a lack of emotional wellness would affect the way a person interacts with their friends and family in a negative manner which could cause a lack of social wellness.

A desire for wellness can often inspire a person to make a social change like giving up their drinking habits in order to seek out healthier coping habits. During the prohibition, it was widely believed that alcohol was having a negative impact on family so the church and the government attempted to remove the temptation.

Wellness and Autism

As a psychology student and an after school counselor for autistic children I have seen first-hand how wellness can truly affect autistic children. The children's' moods, willingness to follow directions, and interaction with their peers is greatly influenced by their wellness routines. For instance when one of the children in my group spends the weekend with his father instead of with his mother’s he comes to school with a cranky mood, an unwillingness to follow directions, and has no interest in interacting with his peers at all. This change is behavior is because when he is with his father he stays up later, does not keep to nutritional foods diet, and spends more time doing physically draining activities.

Wellness is made up of both positives and negatives. When a person has a high level of wellness, they are more likely to live a satisfied life that allows them to reach their maximum potential. However when a person has a low level of wellness they are likely to be dissatisfied with their daily life. For instance if someone has a low level of physical activity, poor nutrition, an unhealthy sleep cycle, and no social life then their life is going to lack the balance that is needed for them to reach their maximum potential.

Emerging Technologies

Technology is something of a double-edged sword because it can both help and hinder wellness. Technology like fitness trackers and health apps help wellness by allowing users to track their fitness, nutrition, and sleep cycle. However when technology replaces physical activities it can begin to hinder physical wellness; advancing technology has also create a get it now mentality that can hinder social wellness.

Issue: Autism

As you can see, Wellness is a very involved topic. I will be focusing on wellness in autism and my plan to help alleviate some of the autism symptoms.

One in 45 children in the US are diagnosed with autism every year that means that 2% of the children in the US have autism. Autism is a complex developmental disability with no known origin the symptoms or cure.

Autism not only affects the autistic child, but also everyone around them. A child with autism requires extra care and monitoring, as they can be prone to random wandering and their lack of communication skills can lead to them misunderstanding instructions.

For instance, some autistic children cannot communicate verbally or use a very limited form of verbal communication; this can negatively affect their emotional, social, occupational, spiritual, and financial wellness.

Some autistic children suffer from mental limitations that prevent them from learning and retaining new knowledge and skills, which is a vital part of intellectual wellness.

Impact of Autism

Autistic children have an increased ability to learn new knowledge and skills when they are in an environment that they find safe and free from distractions. For example, one autistic child’s safe environment might require a therapy ball chair.

Physical wellness often affects an autistic child’s emotional and intellectual wellness each day. For instance, a maintained routine of foods the child is comfortable with, a routine amount of physical activity, and a good night’s sleep can mean the difference between a good day and a bad day for the child.

According to Autism Society there were 1 in 150 people had autism in the US in the year 2000 now according to Autism Speaks there are 1 in 45 people with autism. This increase leads me to predict that either the number of children with autism will continue to rise in the future until either an origin or a cure is discovered.


There are currently no cures or medication to treat autism, but the symptoms can be managed.

The symptoms of autism can be managed through physical wellness. For example, a healthy sleep cycle, a balanced and nutritional diet, and stable level of physical activity can positively affect an autistic child’s emotional, intellectual, and social wellness.

To help the children keep a healthy sleep cycle there should be a 30-minute cool down time before bed and a mandatory nightly bedtime.

In order to have a stable level of physical activity an activity schedule needs to be designed and it should be flexible to allow for fun events. For instance if the child is going to the carnival then he or she should not also have soccer practice on the same day.

For a balanced diet, the parents need to create a meal plan that includes snack between meals that fit in with the plan.

In order to effectively implement the strategies there are two key components: communication and consistency.

Everyone involved with the child needs to know about the plan this means teachers, parents, and the children themselves. The plan needs to be followed all of the time regardless if the child is staying with a different family member or not and any special exceptions needs to be discussed and agreed on by everyone in advance.


Dr. Lamm from Autism Speaks has found that a healthy sleep cycle, a balanced and nutritional diet, as well as a stable level of physical activity allows an autistic child to both learn and retain more information.

According to the Autism Spectrum Disorder: The Role of Routines article: routines offer autistic children a sense of stability, predictability, and consistency, which assists them in reaming emotionally stable without emotional outbursts.


Autism Speaks. (2015). New government survey pegs autism prevalence at 1 in 45. Retrieved prevalence-1-45

Autism Society. (2014). Facts and Statistics. Retrieved statistics/

Lamm, C. (2017). Sleep and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Retrieved services/health-and-wellness/sleep

Northwestern Medicine. (2017). 4 Ways Technology Can Help Your Wellness. Retrieved

Prilleltensky, I. (2013). Wellness without fairness: The missing link in psychology. South African Journal of Psychology, 43(2), 147–155.

SADR, N. M., HAGHGOO, H. A., SAMADI, S. A., RASSAFIANI, M., BAKHSHI, E., & HASSANABADI, H. (2017). The Impact of Dynamic Seating on Classroom Behavior of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Iranian Journal Of Child Neurology, 11(1), 29-36.

SAMASHA. (2016). The Eight Dimensions of Wellness. Retrieved

Steven, E. (n.d.). Social Media And Fitness: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. Retrieved an>

Stoppelbein, L., Biasini, F., Pennick, M., & Greening, L. (2016). Predicting Internalizing and Externalizing Symptoms Among Children Diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder: The Role of Routines. Journal Of Child & Family Studies, 25(1), 251-261. doi:10.1007/s10826-015-0218-3

© 2017 Sefina Hawke


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