Medically reviewed by Dr. Muhammad Ashraf Shera.
Imagine being a little different than the others and getting labeled as ‘weird’ all your life. You’re bullied for not socializing, frowned upon if you do not understand the usual verbal cues, are considered rude if you refuse a hug and your breakdowns seem bizarre.
Standing out from the crowd, being special and being Autistic can be quite challenging, especially when the people around you do not understand your suffering.
A walk down the Autism lane
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that includes varying degrees of struggle in social interaction, communication, in carrying out their daily activities as well as in speech and intellectual ability.
Because of the diversity in the symptoms, this disorder is more commonly known as Autism Spectrum disorder (ASD).
Every autistic kid has different struggles. They may face trouble in talking, making friends or fitting in, and dealing with changes, loud noises, bright lights as well as crowds. They often have rigid, and repetitive behavior. They might carry out an unusual practice such as flapping their hands or repeat some words over and over.
No parent is ever ready to hear that their child is anything but healthy and happy. And, families affected by autism are fighting new wars daily. What makes their struggle more challenging is the inappropriate behavior of the people towards their Autistic loved ones.
While it is true that ASD is not something you can ‘grow out of’, there are many ways that can help children acquire new skills and overcome many developmental challenges.
As a society, it is highly important that we acknowledge the presence of autistic people in our surroundings and help them through their meltdowns. Here are some autism etiquettes that everyone should follow:
- Firstly, never ignore or pretend that the autistic child doesn’t exist. This makes the child and eventually the family very uncomfortable.
- Do not deliberately try to stare or look at the child in the eye if he is not comfortable with making eye contact with you.
- If you begin with a smile on your face, you would have already bridged the gap to reach out to a child who could really use a friend. This communicates: I care and you are OKAY just the way you are.
- If you notice the child having a difficult time, do not just assume that parents are being negligent and throw disapproving looks. Politely ask if your help is needed. If your advances for help are refused, do not interfere further and politely distance yourself.
- Autistic kids may manifest different behaviors that are often not anticipated – a child may be playing oddly or repeating meaningless phrases over and over again. Try being non-judgmental and accepting. The less self-conscious the child feels, the more likely the situation is to resolve on its own.
- I cannot stress this point enough. Please do not try to talk down a child with special needs under the assumption that just because he is behaving like a two-year-old, he thinks like one too. Autism is primarily a communication disorder and you will be surprised to know how bright, creative and thoughtful these children are. Communicate at an age-appropriate level even if you don’t receive feedback to validate it.
- Just accept them for who they are and love them no matter how they behave. You may be surprised to know that the seemingly non-verbal or non-responsive child will relax around you if he becomes comfortable with you. Patience is the key.
Those who live with it and families who have autistic loved ones know that autism itself becomes a lifestyle. The sufferers eventually learn to embrace and live with grace.
Autism acceptance starts with the acknowledgment that there are people on this planet who look at this world quite differently than the majority, and they should be equally celebrated!
Guest Post Credit: Dr. Tooba Irfan