One of the worst experiences in life is feeling misunderstood. We’ve all been there, and it’s no fun. Did you know that Individuals with autism often feel misunderstood? Understanding autism can be complicated- especially for those who don’t have it. Many people simply assume autism works one specific way when in reality it works on a spectrum. Today we’ve put together some information those on the spectrum would, broadly speaking, like you to know.
Through that understanding, you will be better able to show empathy and connect to people with autism.
Autism Is Measured on a Spectrum
You may have heard the term “on the spectrum” in reference to someone who has autism. In fact, the full name of what we call “autism” is really “Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD),” although most people just say “autism.”
Autism is essentially on a sliding scale in terms of severity. Some people experience intense symptoms that will prevent them from engaging with certain activities or understanding certain concepts. However, this isn’t everyone.
For many people with autism, the fact they are on the spectrum may not be obvious. It may be as simple as noticing the occasional quirk or habit you don’t often see in those who aren’t neurodivergent.
This is perhaps most important when discussing those on the lower end of the spectrum. For instance, people who have what was once called Asperger syndrome are often good at masking symptoms to blend in and better adapt to the world around them.
We all have different needs! Not everyone with autism needs the same level of care and attention. People with severe symptoms may need caretakers all their lives. People with mild symptoms may need no more care than you in your life.
As you can imagine, people with autism get frustrated when someone assumes their symptoms are more severe than they are. Many are more than capable of understanding complex topics yet are frequently talked down to.
“Paying Attention” Looks Different
While we need to be careful painting in broad strokes, most people with autism have difficulty giving direct eye contact. Depending on the situation, not being able to maintain eye contact can be very difficult. Many wrong assumptions are made regarding people who are unable to look another person in the eyes.
It’s important to read up on the common symptoms of autism if you intend to interact with someone who has the condition. Things that seem simple to you may cause them anxiety, irritation, or confusion.
A note to educators: put aside your desire for eye contact. Look for another signal of attention and focus in your students.
People With Autism Often Get Talked Down to
Autism is a strange condition in that the image a person projects of themself is often very different from how they are inside. This can lead to them being treated in a way that feels condescending or uncomfortable.
People with autism may struggle with certain social cues but even those with moderate autism are often capable of supporting themselves. Be careful assuming a person with autism isn’t capable of a given task.
Many people with autism are also very intelligent- don’t sell a person short simply because they may not respond exactly as you thought they might.
While we should be careful falling into the trap of assuming anyone with autism is some kind of savant (which also isn’t true), one should be very careful assuming someone with autism can’t make meaningful choices or support themselves.
If you feel like someone with autism doesn’t understand what you’re saying to them, try changing the way in which you speak or giving a short explanation. This can help in BIG ways.
Wondering what works in helping children with autism learn and grow?
Early intervention services based on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) principles can do a lot of good in helping people with autism learn the skills they need to better function in society.
Many children with autism have trouble learning social skills and certain core education concepts in the traditional way. ABA therapy is an evidence-based way to teach these concepts in a way easier for them to understand.
If you have a child with autism, this type of intervention can be critical to helping them live a healthier life and engage better with their peers. It can improve their confidence, happiness, ability to learn, and more.
ABA therapy isn’t an attempt to “cure” autism. It is an expert-supported therapy meant to guide people with autism to healthier behaviors and a fuller understanding of concepts they find difficult.
This type of therapy can even be fun. At Dream Big, we’ve tailored our program to fit into a naturalistic, play-based format.
Want More Information?
At Dream Big, our goal is to help children with autism live fun, playful, full, and happy lives. One of the first steps to doing this is helping guardians understand autism even better.
If you’d like more information on autism, the strategies we use, and more, we welcome you to explore our blog.