As its World Autism Day and Autism month I wanted to write something. I wanted to bring a bit of fun to Autism Day. There’s a lot of tension surrounding language used at this time, acceptance/awareness, etc. So let’s call it Autism Day as language is not a strength of mine. I wanted to write a few Dos and Don’ts on how to interact and react to an individual with autism, you might be surprised that it’s not much different from how to interact with a non-autistic person (autistics can do sarcasm sometimes). I apologise if some of the things I write have been mentioned in my previous blog posts but this is a summary for World Autism Day:
Do get to the point: Just say what needs to be said. If you try to tell us something subtly it won’t work. Better to just say what you mean and be done with it.
Don’t speak to us like we’re stupid: just because we may find it hard to process language doesn’t mean you need to speak slower or in a patronising voice.
Do understand we are on a spectrum: the autistic spectrum is a wide range. The media may create characters like Sheldon from Big Bang theory (people say he’s autistic) and Rainman, but these are not the only types of autistics in the world. We come in many different ways and are anywhere and everywhere.
Don’t worry about talking about autism: if you are uncomfortable talking about our autism or autism in general then we will feel uncomfortable about it. It should be as easy to talk about as your favourite movie. I need to accept it and so do you.
Do understand our anxiety is real: you may not understand why talking to a receptionist makes us anxious or why something as trivial as leaving the house scares us but it does and it’s not an excuse for us to not do something.
Don’t force eye contact: a lot of medical professionals, educational professionals and psychologists, etc. will try and force autistics to make eye contact. Not all autistics struggle with maintaining eye contact but for those who do it is painful and so let them not make it. We can show we are listening in other ways.
Do look for our strengths not our weaknesses: we can see things from a different perspective or notice things that are hard to notice. Our strengths can out way our difficulties if they are used right/appreciated.
Don’t think we can’t have friends: we definitely find it difficult to make friends but can have friends if they’re the right kind of people. Just like non-autistics need people that understand and like them for who they are, so do autistics and it might be more difficult for an autistic but it is possible.
Do understand we are not a puzzle to be solved: I don’t really want to give companies like Autism Speaks any of my time but I will say Autism doesn’t need to be fixed or cured. I am not broken just different and if we were all the same it’d be a boring, non-evolving world.
Don’t dismiss our sensory issues: most autistics have some kind of sensory processing issues, whether sensitivity or insensitivity to sound, sight, taste, touch or smell. Having your brain overwhelmed with the world around you is not an enjoyable experience. It is exhausting and difficult and it is a real problem that effects how we cope in the world.
Do let us stim: I’m the biggest advocate of self stimulating behaviour as long as it is not injurious as it provides great relaxation and enjoyment. Stopping us just because it’s ‘unusual’ is not a valid reason.
Don’t be afraid to teach us: if we are doing something that is not right, like we say something and it sounds a bit rude, tell us in a respectful way because how will we learn how our actions/words effect others otherwise. We all need to learn new things all the time that’s how humans grow.
Do listen to us: our thoughts may be jumbled, confusing, take a while to understand but give us time because we have great, valuable things to say and good points to make if we are given the chance.
Don’t judge us as weird: calling someone ‘weird’, ‘unusual’, ‘crazy’, ‘insane’ is just not acceptable ever so just don’t do it. We are different but to us non-autistics are different depends how you are looking at it and whose perspective you are looking from. What’s normal anyway? A bullshit word that does nothing for no one, that explains nothing, really it means nothing.
Do accept that we have it: if we tell you we are autistic accept it. It’s not something that is a desirable condition and so we wouldn’t make it up. You may be trying to make us feel better by saying we are good at hiding it but best just to say okay.
Don’t think autism is all we are: it is a part of us not the only thing we are. Autism is a huge part of my life but that shouldn’t be all you think of when you think of me. I am a person just like you. Just with a little autism on top.
Obviously there are many Dos and Don’ts but I’d thought I’d share a few. (I am on holiday so excuse if this isn’t one of my most accomplished posts.) Feel free to add any of your own Dos and Don’ts to the comments below. Love to hear from you.
I want to leave you with one parting thought on this day. If you don’t take anything else away please take this:
“Autism, a wide spectrum of colourful people” – the positive outlook that everyone needs to view autism as.
Thanks for reading. Hope you liked it. Peace out!