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Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew<br><br>
Some days it seems the only predictable thing about it is the<br>
unpredictability. The only consistent attribute, the inconsistency. There<br>
is little argument on any level but that autism is baffling, even to those<br>
who spend their lives around it. The child who lives with autism may look<br>
"normal," but his or her behavior can be perplexing and downright difficult.<br>
Today, the citadel of autism, once thought an "incurable" disorder, is<br>
cracking around the foundation. Every day, individuals with autism show us<br>
they can overcome, compensate for, and otherwise manage many of the<br>
condition's most challenging aspects. Equipping those around our children<br>
with a simple understanding of autism's most basic elements has a tremendous<br>
effect on the children's journey towards productive, independent adulthood.<br>
Autism is an extremely complex disorder, but we can distill it to three<br>
critical components: sensory processing difficulties, speech/language delays<br>
and impairments, and whole child/social interaction issues.<br><br>
Here are 10 things every child with autism wishes you knew.<br><br>
1. I am a child with autism. I am not "autistic." My autism is one aspect of<br>
my total character. It does not define me as a person. Are you a person with<br>
thoughts, feelings and many talents, or are you just fat (overweight),<br>
myopic (wear glasses) or klutzy (uncoordinated, not good at sports)?<br><br>
2. My sensory perceptions are disordered. This means the ordinary sights,<br>
sounds, smells, tastes and touches of everyday life that you may not even<br>
notice can be downright painful for me. The very environment in which I have<br>
to live often seems hostile. I may appear withdrawn or belligerent to you,<br>
but I am really just trying to defend myself. A "simple" trip to the grocery<br>
store may be hell for me. My hearing may be hyperacute. Dozens of people are<br>
talking at<br>
once. The loudspeaker booms today's special. Muzak whines from the sound<br>
Cash registers beep and cough. A coffee grinder is chugging. The meat cutter<br>
screeches, babies wail, carts creak, the fluorescent lighting hums. My brain<br>
can't filter all the input, and I'm in overload! My sense of smell may be<br>
highly sensitive. The fish at the meat counter isn't quite fresh, the guy<br>
standing next to us hasn't showered today, the deli is handing out sausage<br>
samples, the baby in line ahead of us has a poopy diaper, they're mopping up<br>
pickles on Aisle<br>
3 with ammonia. ... I can't sort it all out, I'm too nauseous. Because I am<br>
visually oriented, this may be my first sense to become overstimulated. The<br>
fluorescent light is too bright. It makes the room pulsate and hurts my<br>
eyes. Sometimes the pulsating light bounces off everything and distorts what<br>
I am seeing. The space seems to be constantly changing. There's glare from<br>
windows, moving fans on the ceiling, so many bodies in constant motion, too<br>
many items for me to be able to focus - and I may compensate with tunnel<br>
vision. All this affects my vestibular sense, and now I can't even tell<br>
where my body is in space. I may stumble, bump into things, or simply lay<br>
down to try and regroup.<br><br>
3. Please remember to distinguish between won't (I choose not to) and<br>
can't (I'm not able to). Receptive and expressive language are both<br>
difficult for me. It isn't that I don't listen to instructions. It's that I<br>
can't understand you. When you call to me from across the room, this is<br>
what I hear: "*&^%$#@, Billy. #$%^*&^%$&*" Instead, come speak directly to<br>
me in plain words: "Please put your book in your desk, Billy. It's time to<br>
go to lunch." This tells me what you want me to do and what is going to<br>
happen next. Now it's much easier for me to comply.<br><br>
4. I am a concrete thinker. I interpret language literally. It's very<br>
confusing for me when you say, "Hold your horses, cowboy!" when what you<br>
really mean is "Please stop running." Don't tell me something is a "piece of<br>
cake" when there is no dessert in sight and what you really mean is, "This<br>
will be easy for you to do." When you say, "It's pouring cats and dogs," I<br>
see pets coming out of a pitcher. Please just tell me, "It's raining very<br>
hard." Idioms, puns,<br>
nuances, double entendres and sarcasm are lost on me.<br><br>
5. Be patient with my limited vocabulary. It's hard for me to tell you what<br>
I need when I don't know the words to describe my feelings. I may be hungry,<br>
frustrated, frightened or confused, but right now those words are beyond my<br>
ability to express. Be alert for body language, withdrawal, agitation, or<br>
other signs that something is wrong. There's a flip side to this: I may<br>
sound like a little professor or a movie star, rattling off words or whole<br>
scripts well beyond my developmental age. These are messages I have<br>
memorized from the world around me to compensate for my language deficits,<br>
because I know I am expected to respond when spoken to. They may come from<br>
books, television or the speech of other people. It's called echolalia. I<br>
don't necessarily understand the context or the terminology I'm using, I<br>
just know it gets me off the hook for coming up with a reply.<br><br>
6. Because language is so difficult for me, I am very visually oriented.<br>
Show me how to do something rather than just telling me. And please be<br>
prepared to show me many times. Lots of patient repetition helps me learn. A<br>
visual schedule is extremely helpful as I move through my day. Like your day<br>
planner, it relieves me of the stress of having to remember what comes next,<br>
makes for smooth transitions between activities, and helps me manage my time<br>
and meet your expectations. Here's a great web site for learning more about<br>
visual schedules<br>
<<a href="" target="_blank"></a>><br><a href="" target="_blank"></a><br><br>
7. Focus and build on what I can do rather than what I can't do. Like any<br>
other human, I can't learn in an environment where I'm constantly made to<br>
feel that I'm not good enough or that I need fixing. Trying anything new<br>
when I am almost sure to be met with criticism, however constructive,<br>
becomes something to be avoided. Look for my strengths and you'll find them.<br>
There's more than one right way to do most things.<br><br>
8. Help me with social interactions. It may look like I don't want to play<br>
with the other kids on the playground, but sometimes it's just that I simply<br>
don't know how to start a conversation or enter a play situation. If you can<br>
encourage other children to invite me to join them at kickball or shooting<br>
baskets, I may be delighted to be included.<br><br>
9. Try to identify what triggers my meltdowns. This is termed "the<br>
Meltdowns, blowups, tantrums or whatever you want to call them are even more<br>
horrid for me than they are for you. They occur because one or more of my<br>
senses has gone into overload. If you can figure out why my meltdowns occur,<br>
can be prevented.<br><br>
10. If you are a family member, please love me unconditionally. Banish<br>
such as, "If he would just ..." and "Why can't she ... ?" You didn't fulfill<br>
every last expectation your parents had for you, and you wouldn't like being<br>
constantly reminded of it. I didn't choose to have autism. Remember that<br>
it's happening to me, not you. Without your support, my chances of<br>
successful, self-reliant adulthood are slim. With your support and guidance,<br>
the possibilities are broader than you might think. I promise you I'm worth<br>
It all comes down to three words: Patience. Patience. Patience.<br><br>
Work to view my autism as a different ability rather than a disability. Look<br>
past what you may see as limitations and see the gifts autism has given me.<br>
I may not be good at eye contact or conversation, but have you noticed I<br>
don't lie, cheat at games, tattle on my classmates, or pass judgment on<br>
other people?<br><br>
You are my foundation. Think through some of those societal rules, and if<br>
they don't make sense for me, let them go. Be my advocate, be my friend, and<br>
we'll see just how far I can go.<br><br>
I probably won't be the next Michael Jordan, but with my attention to fine<br>
detail and capacity for extraordinary focus, I might be the next Einstein.<br>
Or Mozart. Or Van Gogh.<br>
They had autism too.<br><br>
Author, consultant and parent of a child with autism, Ellen Notbohm is a columnist for Autism/Asperger’s Digest and co-author of 1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders ( Future Horizons, <a href="" target="_blank"></a>). Her articles on autism have appeared in Exceptional Parent, South Florida Parenting, Child’s Voice, Language and other magazines. Your comments are welcome at <a href="mailto:[email protected]">[email protected]</a>.<br><br>
Also, if you are interested, a slightly different, slightly more detailed version of the article appears at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.

9,488 Posts
Fantastic! Thank you so much, I can't wait to share this!<br><br>
DH is first on my list. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="" style="border:0px solid;" title="wink1">

1,448 Posts
Good info! For those of us who are not very familiar with autism, it seems to give us a better look into what the child (and parent) may be dealing with.
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