Autism cases are on the rise, as you may have noticed. Maybe it’s because we now know what to look for. Maybe it’s because we are eating the wrong foods, or bringing up our kids the wrong way, but the fact is, autism is all around us. How, then, should we react to kids with autism when we meet them? Should we shun them, run away from them, or push them away?
Here’s what an autism parent would like to let you know about their child.
1. Though different from other children, my child still longs to be accepted.
A child with autism acts weird, right? Strange noises, bolting, inability to settle down and concentrate, etc. Well, if you think about it, many ‘normal’ kids act weird from time to time! Why, then, do many people shun kids with autism, yet they are kids just like any others? Interestingly, kids with autism respond very well when they are given attention because they too want to fit in. It’s not the autistic child’s fault that sensory issues will sometimes make them react the way they do. Next time you see an autistic child, therefore, please go say hi and try to make friends. You will be amazed at the results.
2. It’s not my child’s fault that he or she has autism
“I wonder what that child did to deserve autism.” “Serves that child right for being so badly behaved, no wonder he has autism!” These are some of the thoughts that cross the minds of people who do not understand autism. If only they would understand that when an autistic child is born, he or she does not ask which family to be born into, and which ailments or disabilities he or she would like. They find themselves with autism – for life! If other adults and children would understand that the child had no choice in the matter, they would be more accepting of autism.
3. My child needs to be given space to learn to cope with his/her surroundings
That child who is screaming in the mall, covering his or her ears because of the sounds, or eyes because of the bright lights, is having trouble with the environment. Children with autism often take time to get used to new places and new people, and in the process of acclimatizing, may go through a couple of meltdowns. Other parents and adults, please don’t judge this child as being spoilt and badly behaved. If you can, give this child space to get used to the new space as you watch from a distance to see if the parents need help. Offer to stand with the child’s mom as she waits it out. Ask your kids to make friends with this kid – that’s a great place to start.
4. My child is not deaf
The worst thing people can do when around an autistic child is to stand behind them and begin to make unkind remarks about this child. Children with autism, even those who are non-verbal, are not deaf. They hear and understand more than you think they do. Those nasty words you say behind their back may damage them for life. Instead, go up to this child, put your arm around their shoulders and tell them they are special! Talk to them the way you would talk to any other child. When you do so, the child begins to feel like you have treated them just like a normal child, and that you appreciate them for who they are!
5. My child needs love just like any other child
All children need to be loved, even those who are autistic. Yes, it may be hard to love a child who becomes violent and destructive during a meltdown, but one single act of love may actually make this child calm down. Also, autistic children who experience love from their peers and other adults cope a lot better in school, church and at social gatherings. Let the autistic children be children, and love them as they are.
Parents with autistic children often feel ostracized from society, like they cannot fit in because of the challenges their children have. Can you imagine feeling like that all your life? Wouldn’t you go crazy? Now that you understand better what the autistic child needs from the world, how about you make things better by accepting both the child and his or her parents? A small act of kindness directed at autism goes a really long way!