I’ve seen a lot of these ‘guides’ floating around, how to be their friends, how to think of them, what they wish they could tell you, etc… some are rather enlightening, many contain pretty common sense stuff that you should apply to everyone, not just someone with Autism.
The ones I find amusing, yet scary, are the ones that try to pad them out to be a nice round number like 10 or to sound like they have a “lot” to share with you by having a high enough number. But what I find even more amusing and scary is that every single one of these people know that no two Autistic people are created equal, therefore generalizing is a tricky thing to do. Not every child will react the same in every situation and thus, guidelines are exactly that, guidelines… not rules. Learn from them, don’t take them too seriously. How you interact with an Autistic person will vary.
Anyway, it was after reading a few of these that I summarized all of them into 3 simple points, which I tweeted in well under 140 characters and I think did a good job of summing it all up without generalizing to the point of excluding anyone… although, this will fall into the category of applying to everyone, not just Autistic people. So my apologies if you were expecting some ground breaking new way of thinking that pertained only to Autism.
Don’t Tell Me. Inform Me.
Autistic people can’t express themselves as well or at all, and they tend to take in information in a literal sense. For example, if you tell them that you feel like a pizza, they’ll picture you feeling like dough covered in cheese, sauce and pepperoni. Instead, say “I want pizza for supper.”
That being said, they’re not just robots that you can feed information into and tell them how to think. I think it’s fairly safe to say that if you’ve had any kind of extended period of time with an Autistic individual, you realize that you can’t force them to do anything or to think anything.
Give them the information they require to visualize and conceptualize for themselves and form their own opinions and decisions. My hope is that my son grows up to pick a political party on his own, based on the facts he learns and bases his vote on what he thinks is best. It’s not my place to tell him.
That brings me to…
Don’t Include Me. Involve Me.
I don’t think most people realize exactly how much of a difference there really is… I see this happen in regular programs with regular kids that try to “include” special needs children. Most do a good job, but some feel that simply having the child there watching, or sitting close enough to the action, that they’re somehow involved.
The really great people are the ones who find a task or a way to get the special needs child involved. For example, on my videos page, there is a video of a boy who was the helper of the basketball team. He loved being involved, he loved being an important part of the team and when his time came, he laced up his shoes and became a star! It was because he was involved, not just included.
That brings me to the last one…
Don’t Judge Me. Accept Me.
I think this one pretty much speaks for itself, not just for Autistics but for all people who feel… out of the norm.
For me, when I think of this, I think as a parent would when I am out in public and my son loses his cool and throws a temper tantrum like only an Autistic person could. I see the other parents judge me and I think.. if they knew, it would be different.
Autism tends to lend itself to this very well because on the surface, most people don’t and can’t recognize there’s anything wrong beyond the person just being bad, dumb, silly… crazy even. Perhaps if a puzzle piece shaped scar appeared on children with Autism, this one wouldn’t be a big deal.
Stop looking at me, the parent… and stop whispering to the person next to you about how bad behaved my child is. Stop thinking my son is rainman, stop thinking he’s retarded…. just stop thinking about everything you’re thinking except… there’s a man with his son. Because that’s all we are.
So there you have it, all of the lists on all of the sites on all of the internet summed up into 3 little points. Autistic or not, young or old… practice these 3 things with the people you know. It’s not just a list of nice little words of wisdom, they’re the building blocks to friendship, to a community and to peace.