We are often quick to make judgements on what we perceive to be happening when children behave in a way that draws attention – but when a young person with autism is struggling to cope with the world, the last thing they need is our criticism.
These 10 tips reflect our combined experience of research and close engagement with children with autism. And as a proud parent of a boy with autism, I would like everyone to think more about how they respond to children.
Because if we take time to respect and understand people with autism our communities will become more enriching and inclusive for everyone.
1. See me for who I am
There is only one of me, just like there is only one of you in the world. Like you, I have lots of different skills and abilities as well as things I find difficult. Just because I have autism doesn’t mean I am the same as everyone else with autism. Love and acceptance from family, friends and everyone around me is the best way to help me to grow and thrive.
2. I hear, see and feel the world differently to you
I find some noises, smells, tastes or lights stressful, frightening or even physically painful. Touch can overwhelm me and I might not like hugs. But I can experience details that you might miss – that I can enjoy and find funny or exciting – so come and share these things with me. Read some of the books written by people with autism to learn more about how the world can feel.
3. I want friends, just like everyone else
But my social behavior might seem different from other people’s. For me, communication and interaction isn’t just through words. Some children with autism don’t use spoken language and communicate in non-verbal ways. This can include taking your hand to the object I want, or looking at something of interest – so watch me and learn my language.
4. My behavior is my way of communicating
If I can’t talk or express my thoughts and feelings I can become very frustrated, sad and angry. People see my behavior as difficult, naughty or deliberately challenging – but it’s likely to be my way of communicating. Don’t exacerbate these outbursts, help me say what I want to.
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