I try very hard to not let folks I meet when with my son know that he is Autistic. Even so, I have told more than a few people this was the case to make them aware for one reason or another.
Most of the time, the result is all but a sympathetic “There, there! It will all be okay.” Kind of response, but every once in a while, something different comes of things.
The last such event occurred the other night, when I had taken Garrett out to play at one of his favorite places for evening play (the local McDonald’s Play Place). What happened was actually not the result of anything that transpired during that time, but apparently, of what had happened prior.
It seems I had informed a young lady for reasons I couldn’t recall by the time of the most recent event, that Garrett was Autistic. The only reason I know that is, she came up to me and started to talk about her situation, indicating that I had done so.
You see, her son had been diagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome, apparently since the last time we had spoken. I vaguely remembered her, but hadn’t really noted any serious signs to indicate the impending diagnosis of her son was likely to be forthcoming.
To be fair, he was—even at the later meeting (probably at least two months later)—still pretty young, and it can be more than a little difficult to note the signs of Autism in one so young; the less severe the Autism, the harder it is to recognize.
Having been informed by her that her son had been diagnosed, I took the time to watch him for a while, at which point, the signs became pretty clear.
I would never have considered myself a “seasoned veteran” when it comes to dealing with Autism, even though I have spent the last six years dealing with a moderately Autistic boy. This is particularly true, considering the many people who have spent decades working with special needs kids, and particularly Autistic children. Even so, most people I have talked to—both those not having to deal with Autism on an ongoing basis, and those dealing with it regularly—find Garrett to be an exceptional young man in a variety of regards, and I like to think I had more than a little to do with that.
I started to ask the young lady spoken of earlier some questions, and make some statements that I think probably made her wonder if I had been watching her son like a peeping tom. If you’ve taken sufficient interest in an Autistic child “in your charge” though, it’s not at all surprising to know many of the things I talked about—asking or telling—are likely.
The more important thing though, is that parents of Autistic children are in a unique position to pass along various things they’ve discovered about their children, and how to “simplify” dealings with them. So true is this, that I thought I might pass along a few things here. Without further ado, allow me to list some “helpful tips”
Autistic Children Need Love
People used to make a regular habit of saying love was “wasted on” Autistic people—that they didn’t respond, and didn’t seem to understand it. Let me assure you that I have never seen an Autistic person for whom this was true. In fact, my son thrives when he is assured he is loved and treated accordingly.
When You’re Able, Support Their Idiosyncrasies
I have told folks that my son would spend hours at a given door, opening that door, going through it, closing it, opening it again, going through it again, closing it again. More than a few folks I have known would not allow their child to do such things, instead pulling them away from them—kicking and screaming or not. I’m here to tell you, the more I let my son behave like this, the less I have dealt with this kind of behavior as time has gone on. Don’t by any means misunderstand, we still deal with it, but it’s far “less of a thing” now, than it was when he was younger.
Be Someone Your Child Can Trust
You may think this is something every parent should do for his or her child, but it’s so much more important for Autistic kids. Most Autistic children don’t “trust easy,” and when that trust is broken it takes a lot of time and effort to regain it. So, make it your business to be trustworthy, and when you fail (and we all do) own up to it. This brings me to the next point.
Never Assume Your Child Can’t Understand You
One of the hallmarks of Autistic folks—most especially children—is that they have trouble communicating. The problem is, there is a tendency to believe this means they don’t understand, because they are unable to communicate their understanding. By and large, that tendency is dead wrong. Just because an Autistic child doesn’t seem to respond to things, and doesn’t seem to understand, doesn’t mean they “aren’t tracking.” And worse yet, since many Autistic children have tremendous memories, they’re likely to remember things you said forever ago, and maybe even forgot you said.
The Correct Motivation Goes A Long Way
This is true for all kids, but it’s especially important to find out what is motivational and de-motivational for Autistic children. Further, it’s important to keep track of that changing (as it does with all kids). I watched the young lady, get her child to say “Yes” in response to a question, because the thing she was asking was a strong motivator (being bounced on a toy), even though normally he wouldn’t have used the word.
I see now, that this may end up needing to be a couple of articles, because there’s probably a good deal of advice I’m forgetting, yet I’m already “pushing the limit” with what I’ve said to this point.
That being the case, I suppose I should stop here, and pick this conversation up in another post.
As is customary, allow me to wish you the best of times and thank you for reading.