Autism – Why it is Important to Understand

Jasmine Hubbard, News Editor

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You’ve been trying to get a guy’s attention for a while. He’s been focusing hard on a computer game for the past ten minutes. He won’t listen to you and you are starting to get aggravated by his lack of care. “Just listen to me,” you holler. He turns and faces you, stunned and goes into a fit of rage, yelling and screaming at you for hollering at him. He had been ignoring you and yet he’s the one pissed off? His mom kicks you out explaining that it’s not your fault and that he’s just autistic. But, deep down inside you feel bad and wish there was a better way to have dealt with the situation.

Autism, according to the Mayo Clinic-a non-profit organization aimed in providing the

best care to every patient-, is a serious developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact.

Some early symptoms according to Autism Speaks include “no social smiles or other warm, joyful expressions directed at people, limited to no eye contact, and no sharing of vocal sounds, smiles or other nonverbal communication.”

Why treat it like a disorder? A person’s inabilities-their strengths and weaknesses, there constant fits of rage, there love and compassion, the way they communicate with you-should that make you treat them any different from how you would any other typical person?

I get it, it’s tough. I should know better than anyone else. Practically all of my friends are somewhere on the spectrum. To be honest, when they came to me after being diagnosed with Autism I was rather shocked, yet I didn’t let the disorder get me down. They were still my friends and I still treated them as such.

However, I feel that many of us struggle with keeping the balance between treating them as typical and yet still socializing with them in a way that makes sense to them. I’m going to be honest even I struggle with the melt downs and constant fits of rage that autistic people usually go through, and of course being concise can sometimes be tricky but if I’ve learned anything it’s that you never give up on them. So here are a few tips to better deal with autism.

Tip number 1: Find out what bothers them. This isn’t only a great tip when dealing with autism but it also works with dealing with people in general. Autism Speaks states that for many autistic people things such as flickering lights, certain smells, loud sounds, and weird textures can cause physical pain to them because their senses are highly overactive. By knowing the little things that make them tick you can better avoid meltdowns.

Tip number 2: Be extremely concise, don’t be sarcastic, and don’t use figurative language. Phrases like “hold your horses, cowboy” or “it’s a piece of cake” can be confusing, Autism Speaks says, instead, say something like “stop running” or “this will be easy to do.” Just tell them exactly what you mean, so that you can avoid confusion.

Tip number 3: Pick up on body language and nonverbal communication. Finding the right words can be hard for someone dealing with autism. Just be patient and observant to what they’re trying to communicate with you. They feel appreciated when you notice what’s going on because they can see how much work you’ve put in to pick up on their little cues.

Tip number 4: Sometimes all it takes is showing them how to do something to make them understand how to do it. Autism Speaks states that majority of autistic people learn visually rather than verbally; “Spoken words are like steam to me; they evaporate in an instant, before I have a chance to make sense of them.”

Tip number 5: Focus on what they can do well and build off of that rather than telling them everything their messing up on. No one likes being told they can’t do anything or that they suck, and no matter how constructive you think you are being, autistic people will almost always take it as you putting them down. If you are trying to correct something the best way to do it according to Chrissy Kelly, a mom of two boys with autism, is to try the “first, then statements”. A lot of times they want things to happen right at that moment but they have to do their work, so as a motivation I use the first, then statements. “First do your homework, and then we can video chat. “Second, reward positive behavior. For instance, if they finish all of their homework you can say “Good job on doing all your homework.” For some people praise means nothing to them, so small tangible gifts may be rewarded like a piece of candy. Some people may look at this as bribery but in reality everyone works for reinforcement. You receive a paycheck for doing your job don’t you? Well, it’s kinda like that.

Lastly, just love them. They may be atypical but that doesn’t mean you get to treat them as such. No one’s perfect. Sure they might not meet society’s expectations, who does? We’re all not skinny enough, pretty enough, good enough, perfect enough because we’re all human and thus all deserve to be treated as such. So next time don’t blow up at them and tell them how stupid they are. Instead, hug them and tell them how thankful you are that they’re a part of this world.

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Autism – Why it is Important to Understand