All children with autism are different. However, they do have some commonalities in term of how they would like to be treated.
If we want to connect with our autistic students, here are some things we should keep in mind.
“Although it may not seem like it, I am trying to communicate.”
As discussed previously, those with autism can have trouble communicating. However, this does not mean that they are not trying in their own way. It is up to us as educators to find ways to decipher what they are trying to say, and we need to be good listeners! Visual tools, like the ones previously mentioned in this training, are a great way to bridge the gap. Remember that communication, just like any other skill, takes time and a lot of patience from both parties. Don’t get frustrated or disheartened if communication does not happen overnight. You will get there!
“I am a concrete thinker.”
Those on the autistic spectrum can take information very literally. Cultural idioms (i.e. raining cats and dogs) puns, nuances, double entendres and sarcasm can be confusing for them. Do your best to keep language simple and direct using plain words. Eventually, those with autism may be able to one day understand these other parts of language or they may not. Whatever the case, do your best to speak in a way that they can understand you.
“Please focus on what I can do, not what I can’t."
Like anyone else, those with autism desire praise for achievements. While their accomplishments may look different than other children’s, they are still accomplishments! Celebrate what they are able to do and try not to focus on what they cannot.
“Autism does not define me.”
It is important to remember that autism is just one aspect of character, one part of who they are as a person. It can be easy to get caught up in the diagnosis, and forget that they are a child. They still have years to develop, grow, and become even more wonderful people.
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