I’ve worked with a great variety of children in the last few years, and some of them have been on the autistic spectrum.
All of them were different and delightful in their own ways, and all of them had stuff they were working on that they needed support with.
Really, that's what being a child is all about. You need guidance, support, love and sometimes huge amounts of patience.
That need isn’t vastly different between children on or off the so-called "spectrum."
The guidance and support required may look different but it’s still there.
All children need to feel loved, accepted and engaged with.
Adults should be careful about the language they choose when talking with a child, as a few words and a misperception here and there can stay with children through their entire lives.
It has the capacity to shake their identities and confidence, and sadly, many people don’t realize this.
Engaging with autistic children makes you reflective about your own communication, in a way that many people wouldn’t stop to think about.
It may seem like you have to walk on eggshells around these children, but that's not what I'm trying to say.
As long as you are aware of the language you are using when speaking to children with special needs, you should be fine.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
A label does not define a child.
I’ve seen so many parents either pounce upon a label as an explanation, or refuse to acknowledge it all.
I asked one mother about this once, and very emotionally she explained that she hoped, "One day he won’t have Asperger's anymore, and will be normal."
Eventually, she was able to accept that the label didn’t change her child in any way. He was who he always had been, and that’s a pretty awesome individual. He is a stormy, angry, but brilliantly intelligent, funny and creative guy.
You can’t select which parts of a person you choose to accept; we're all a packaged deal.
Kids will believe you if you say they can't do something.
Don’t tell children they can’t do something, tell them how they can.
Parents need to be flexible about their expectations for their kids. You can’t make a child into a carbon copy of yourself, nor should you want to.
All parents want great things for their children, but they need to listen to the needs of the child.
Be enthusiastic about your child’s passions and interests. Don’t reject them; it only makes them feel rejected.
Your kid is already on the path to his or her future. Hold your child's hand, and be there to catch him or her when he or she needs you.
I’ve got stuff I’m working on, but so do you.
We live in a society where mental health is taboo, and talking about your feelings is frequently mocked.
Just because most people don’t ponder why they get so mad or sad doesn’t mean those feelings aren’t roiling around in there.
I’ve had the privilege of working with some truly fantastic teachers at one particularly inspirational school where children were constantly talking about their feelings. They are all going to be so ahead of the curve later on in life for it.
Were all different, even you.
"Normal" is such a weird concept.
It’s a statistic that the majority turned into a validating descriptive.
Take a second to think about how depressing that is.
We all have our own individual identities, quirks, strengths and weaknesses.
It doesn’t matter if you have the challenges hidden away out of sight, or loud and proud on your sleeve; they’re inside everyone.