As an adult, you’ve likely come across individuals with autism in the workplace or out in the community. If you have school-age children, chances are, they have classmates who have autism. Understanding how to effectively interact with these individuals and build positive relationships is important and can help break down stigmas.
Teach your children what autism is and how it affects others. Their classmate may have trouble communicating, picking up social cues, understanding jokes, or interacting with others, but there are many ways they are just like other kids. No two people are exactly alike, and it’s our differences that make us unique.
Focus on the similarities instead of the differences. What are some activities they both like to do? Does their classmate have pets or siblings? Do they like puzzles, horses, or soccer? There are many ways that your child can connect with a friend with autism and share fun experiences together.
Teach patience in working with others, whether they have autism or not. They may need more time or help to learn a concept or game. Try explaining things in a different way or showing an example. Redirect them if they get off topic.
Give clear directions or ask straight-forward questions. Children with autism may be very literal, so vagueness or sarcasm are not always understood. Giving too many choices can be confusing as well.
Remember that autism is not an intellectual disability. Children with autism may be highly intelligent, but they struggle with communication and social skills. Encourage your child to befriend their classmate and learn more about them as a person. The more time they spend together, the more comfortable they will become around one another.
The “golden rule” applies as well: remind your children to treat others as they would want to be treated. Bullying is never acceptable. Friends stand up for one another and treat each other with respect. If someone is being mean to another student or bullying them, they should tell a trusted adult.
Children with autism want to be included just like their peers. Arrange for playdates and talk to the student’s parents about ways they can be involved in birthday parties or other special events. Setting a positive example in the way you interact with people with special needs sets the tone for your children and how they’ll engage with others. Be a role model and encourage them to ask questions and learn more if there are things they are curious about. Acceptance goes a long way.
PediaPlex offers a variety of services and supports for children with autism and other special needs including ABA therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy. Help your child to thrive and make the most of the world around them.
Does your child struggle with autism? Find out how ABA therapy at PediaPlex can help by calling today.