In honor of World Autism Day on April 2nd, this post is dedicated to Light It Up Blue. It is so important for people to understand autism, as it affects 1 in 68 children in the United States (this number may even be higher according to some studies). As more and more children become diagnosed with this developmental disorder that affects social skills, language skills, and may cause repetitive behaviors, it is of the utmost importance that we understand the disorder so we can interact and have relationships with these special individuals. Below are 5 helpful tips to follow when interacting with a child on the autism spectrum.
1. Individuals with Autism are all different
Don’t forget this. Just because you meet someone with autism, doesn’t mean they will be like someone else you know with autism. Just like typically developing children, every individual with autism has different strengths and weaknesses. Try not to make judgments about the child and really get to know him.
2. You may need to repeat instructions
Many children with autism demonstrate difficulty attending to spoken language. Although you may have told the child to do a specific task, the child may have not been attending (listening) to the direction, or may simply not understand. Novel directions may be difficult for a child with autism. Take time to breakdown directions into simpler steps and/or visually show the child how to complete the direction.
3. Transitions may be difficult
Often children on the spectrum follow routines very well. When someone comes into their life and disrupts that routine, the child may demonstrate some behavior difficulties. Try to prepare the child ahead of time for the change. Give him ample notice of the change. Allowing the child time to understand something new will happen may help to alleviate some behavioral challenges.
4. It may take time for the child to warm up to you
Children with autism are often uninterested in people surrounding them unless that person has a specific purpose in their life (such as a parent who provides them with food and shelter). A child with autism may not see the value in other people. Try to find out what interests that child. Use his interests to help get to know the child. For example, if the child likes trains, then you can give him some new trains or talk to him about trains he likes. Try this for a few times, and the child may start to see value in you which in return will allow the child to be more open with you.
5. Eye contact may be difficult for the child
Children with autism often demonstrate difficulty establishing eye contact with others. Don’t take this personally. The child may greet you or ask you something and not look at you. This is part of their disorder and they are probably working on this skill with their teachers or therapists.
To learn more about autism and Light it Up Blue go to autismspeaks.org/liub.