Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. It is estimated that 1 in 54 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although every child’s life with autism is unique, there are common experiences and feelings they might wish you knew about.
Challenges that children with autism face
- Sensory Overload: Children with autism often have hypersensitive senses and can find everyday stimuli overwhelming. This could be anything from the hum of a refrigerator to the feel of certain fabrics against their skin.
- Social Interaction: Understanding and participating in social norms can be difficult for children with ASD. They might struggle to maintain eye contact, interpret facial expressions, or engage in conversation.
- Communication Difficulties: While some children with autism might be nonverbal, others may have a vast vocabulary but struggle with pragmatics—the ebb and flow of normal conversation. Lots of children also interpret language literally which can cause confusion.
- Resistance to Change: Children with autism usually thrive on routine and predictability. Changes, even small ones, can lead to significant distress and anxiety.
- Focused Interests: A child with autism may have intense, focused interests that can be hard for others to understand. Their interest might be in a narrow subject, and they may struggle to engage in other topics.
Remember, these are just some of the challenges faced by children with autism. Each child is unique and may experience these or other challenges to varying degrees.
Communication skills can be difficult so here are ten things that every child with autism might want you to understand.
1. I am Unique
Just like no two snowflakes are alike, no two individuals with autism are the same. Each child has their own set of strengths, challenges, interests, and quirks. Therefore, please don’t assume what works for one person with autism will work for another.
2. I Communicate Differently
Not all children with autism communicate verbally. Some may use sign language, others may use a communication device, while some may communicate through their behavior. Try to be patient and learn my unique way of communicating.
3. I Experience Sensory Overload
I might get overwhelmed by bright lights, loud noises, or crowded places. This is because my senses can be hypersensitive. Please understand when I need a break or a quiet space.
4. Routines are Important to Me
Having a routine helps me understand what’s coming next and reduces my anxiety. Sudden changes can be very distressing to me. If changes are unavoidable, please help me prepare for them.
5. I Have My Own Interests
I might have deep, passionate interests in specific topics. These are not obsessions but a way for me to relax, find joy, and express myself. Please respect and support my interests.
6. Social Situations Can Be Difficult
Understanding some social interactions, cues or norms can be challenging for me. I might not make eye contact or understand jokes. Please don’t see this as rudeness, but as a part of my condition.
7. I Need Your Patience
Learning new skills or adapting to new situations can take time for me. I might need more practice and more time to understand things. Please be patient with me.
8. I Can Learn and Grow
Having autism doesn’t mean I can’t learn or improve. With the right support and opportunities, I can learn new life skills again, thrive, and accomplish great things. Please believe in my potential.
9. I Have Feelings Too
I may express my feelings differently, but I still experience happiness, sadness, love, and frustration just like anyone else. Please recognize and validate my feelings.
10. Accept Me As I Am
Above all, I wish for your acceptance. I am not broken or less-than. I am just different. Please see me for who I am, not just my diagnosis.
Remember, every child with autism is an individual with their own personality, abilities, and dreams. By understanding these ten things, you can help create a world that’s more accepting and supportive for children with autism.