Autism can be bewildering. Even to those who have to deal with it by the minute. This disorder was once deemed as an incurable one. The knowledge we acquired through studies and education proved us that although its definitive cause is still unknown, it is manageable. Individuals with autism are challenged with the characteristics of this disorder every day and they have shown us that, with the right support and knowledge, they can overcome or balance out these tough characteristics. As a result, having people with even the basic idea about autism can contribute to understanding individuals with autism, furthermore help them have a more advantageous future life.
There are fundamental characteristics to autism that impact certain areas. These impacted areas are generally responsible for speech, senses, social interactions, and these especially affect the child’s skills and self-esteem. However, it is important to remember that no two children with autism are completely the same; this is a spectrum disorder, therefore every child will be at a different level on the spectrum. Consequently, each child, and even parent, teacher and those around the child, will have special set of needs. In this post, you can find ten general things to consider while understanding and helping your child or someone around you with autism.
1. They do not perceive the world as you do
When an individual with autism is somehow being mean to me, remember that they may be going through something you have not thought of. A different environment can be harsh on individuals with autism. As their brains are working differently, they may over- or under-perceive stimuli. Something such a normal sound to you can be extremely alarming for them. Simple tasks you do with your eyes closed can be terrifying for them. They often do what they do because they are trying to defend themselves. Their brains are overload with stimuli, they simultaneously absorb tons of information and filter them, which is extremely overwhelming. So remember that when you are at a grocery store, and see someone presumably with autism acting up or yelling, they may be just overwhelmed due to the disorder.
2. A child is still just a child
Remember that this disorder is a part of your child. It does not entirely define her/him, but it is a part of who she/he is. Remember that they have no control over how these characteristics show themselves. Adults can be in control in terms of what they show and how they act. However, children are still just children. They will learn and they will grow, when they are given the chances. They will be shaped into future adults by the actions of those around them. Recognize that they are not just their disorder.
3. Focus on the positive
It is in human nature that we would not thrive in a negative environment that constantly tells us that we are not enough to do something, that there is something wrong with us. People will stay away from trying something new when they are certain they will get criticism, no matter how constructive the person talking think it is. This is also valid for individuals with autism. Focus on their strengths rather than trying to find something to criticize. This will encourage them to be more confident.
4. They take it literally
Spicing up your speech with idioms might not be a very good idea. Puns, sarcasm, metaphors… As individuals with autism are concrete thinker, these do not mean what you want them to mean.
5. It is not stubbornness
Individuals with autism respond to clear instructions. They like knowing what is happening and what will happen next. If you want them to do something, instead of yelling from the other side of the room, go to them and clearly explain what you need them to do. They will feel much more comfortable as they can understand the situation.
6. They try to communicate in their own way
When it comes to communication, even the simplest thing might be a challenge for an individual with autism. They sometimes are not able to express what they are feeling, if they are hungry or frightened or confused. They may not find the suitable words for the situation. Because they cannot find the words, they may try to compensate this loss with their body language, or words that are completely out of context. Just be on the lookout for signs that tell you something is wrong.
7. Social interactions take effort
It is always hard for an individual with autism to engage in social interactions, let alone starting them. Your child may seem reluctant to play with other kids, but the reason for this may simply be that he/she doesn’t know how to do it. How to play with others, how to start a conversation, how to join a play group… Since children with autism struggle with interpreting expressions, emotions or body languages of others, they would need encouraging and coaching coming from you. Talk to your child when he/she should do, for instance, if another child falls down. Encourage other children to invite your children to play with them. They would very much like to be included.
8. Show them how to do it
Individuals with autism are visually oriented. Showing them how to do something instead of just telling them will be a great help. You may have to repeat it lots of times, but this will provide a great deal of relief from the stress of upcoming activities by giving a soft transition and time management. Individuals with autism need to see things to learn them. They cannot process spoken language fast enough to make sense of them. Visual aids can be there whenever they need.
9. Analyze the reasons for outbursts
Communication is always a challenge. When children with autism feel like they are too overwhelmed due to not being able to communicate the way they want to, they may have temper tantrums and meltdowns, which are as scary for children with autism as they are to you. If you keep track of what causes these meltdowns, they can be prevented. Their behavior might be coming from their physical problems, or simply because they are reacting to something happening around them. You may find a pattern if you can figure out the when and why of the situation and take note of them.
10. Love them
Don’t judge them. They did not choose to have autism. Remember that they have this condition to struggle with. Without the support of their loved ones, individuals with autism will struggle to have a comfortable, successful and an independent life. You need to be patient. Just try to see it as a different ability. Focus on the strengths, toss aside the disadvantages. These individuals depend on you. Guide them. When you give them the love and the support, the guidance they need, you will see the limits disappear.
Adapted and inspired from _Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew _by Ellen Notbohm Strengths that Come with Autism and Why You Should Care
Last Updated: December, 2022