10 Things about Autism

I love to liaise with others and just recently I have been liaising with someone who has been wanting to go into the Autism World to teach. She asked me "What are the top 10 things I should know?"

This was a tough one. It's different for us all. What I think someone should know, someone else may make a completely different list, but here are my 10 things I think someone should know about autism;

1) Not all autism is the same
There was once a quote I came across "When you meet one child with Autism, you have met one child with Autism" it truly couldn't be more true. 
Every child is different.

2) I don't look 'different'
You'll be amazed at how 'mainstream' some of our autistic children can look. I once heard it described as a 'hidden disability' although the wording may now change around 'disability, additional needs, special needs etc' I still think it's true - it is totally hidden! Our children can look so mainstream which makes it hard when others can't understand why they are behaving a certain way!

3) I am not 'naughty'
AGGHHHRHRGHHGGH! (Temper tantrum here). I can remember one day being out in the community with a student. She was a little angry over waiting in the queue - in fairness we had queued now for 15 minutes, and a few months back this child would never have lasted this long so this was a big achievement. I can remember an old man turning to me and saying "Bit naughty isn't she?" Phwoar, if he did. He soon had a quick lesson about Autism. Granted, he became very embarrassed and apologised. But, what if I was someone who wasn't able to react so quick with a speech about Autism? What if I was someone who couldn't stand up for myself? What if I was too shy? The child is not naughty he/she just has differing needs that not everyone understands.

4) Don't be scared of me.
The amount of people we have come in usually 'subs' read the pen pictures and give a HUGE wide berth to the children throughout the day. Don't be scared of them. They can have such amazing, funny personalities and you can build such strong relationships with them - there is no need to be scared of them, sure be aware of what may upset them and abide by that!

5) I am not a test subject.
Don't treat them like a test subject. Don't try out new things, see if you can cure their differences. There is nothing worse than someone who comes strutting in and claiming they know everything and can stop the child doing this, that and the other. Flapping may annoy you, but tough - that's part of who the child is. Why should we cure them? The rest of the World needs to learn to accept differences, not cure them.

6) Just because I'm non-verbal doesn't make me dull.
Nothing worse than someone assuming because a child can't talk then they aren't very clear - it's quite the contrary, I've known some children who are so clever yet are non-verbal. You just have to put some extra time in to making different activities and resources to suit their individual needs - you'll soon see themselves come out of their shell!

7) Don't hide me away.
Why should we hide our children away? We are out in the community at least twice a week. The community need to see us out to accept us. We help the children get used to being out in the community to help their families. They need to learn about the community, life skills etc. that may come so naturally to others, they just need a little more time to get used to!

8) Don't gape at me.
Our children may do things different - they may make non-verbal noises that may sound 'funny' to you, they may flap and rock. This does not give you permission to stand there, gape for so long you might as well take a picture. This is the child. This is their life. This is what they do. 

9) Please be patient with me.
Please be patient. If something is new it may take me a little longer to get used to it. I have to consider so many new things; noises, lights, textures, crowds. There are so many things going around my mind in a new setting, it can upset me, please be patient, I will get there one day.

10) Love me, accept me. Don't take it personal.
Build relationships. You may ask "How? The child doesn't want anyone near him!" "The child likes to be alone". Trust me there's always a way to connect with each other. It may be over playing games with each other, next to each other, sensory time, singing, music sessions, work activities, when out and about. As soon as you have that relationship, you have their trust, they are going to feel safe with you, you're going to be their first port of call. This can be bad and good. I don't know how many times I've been walloped because of a noise someone else made - but it's just the child's way of telling me they really don't like this situation and they don't know what to do! The child hasn't sat there for the past 3 hours wondering how they are going to hurt me! Don't take it personal. Once you have that relationship, you're going to love them to bits because their personality is really going to shine through. It is so worth it.

What would be on your list? 


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