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Intervention Recommendations

The following is some advice to make your child’s life and your life more enjoyable while working with someone as unique as one with autism.

1.  Be an advocate

Try to control bullying as much as possible.  This may come in a variety of forms and it is important that the autistic person in question not only understands when and how they are being bullied but what to do to prevent it and escape from it.  It may be an option to consider homeschooling if it is not possible to downplay this bullying.

2.     Validate the differences: Different is GOOD

Tell your child that being different is not bad.  Many children hear about their diagnosis and are told that their behavior and way of being is bad and undesirable.  If a child knows or thinks this it can be very hard for the child to have high self esteem making it even more difficult for the child to function in an already hostile world.

Frank Klein states, “I began to realize I was different in about the third grade, but it never bothered me. I was never given the impression that unusual was bad, or that I had a problem.” Because of his mother and the support of others like her, Klein was given the tremendous ability to grown up knowing and understanding why he was different, without being made to feel as a lesser individual for those differences. By creating a nurturing and accepting environment that focuses and emphasizes the positivity of differences, instead of just noting them as differences,  one can build the child’s confidence in their abilities creating a sense of pride in themselves which is crucial in helping them endure and withstand the harshness of the surrounding world.

 

3. Educate

Educate your child

Teach that behaviors, emotions and desires can have particular facial and bodily expressions and teach what these are and what they mean.  Many children do not realize what behaviors are recognized as intolerable and which are not.  They also may not see or recognize facial expressions or know what facial expressions they should put with their thoughts and emotions making it difficult for them to interact socially with a good degree of understanding.

Being autistic certainly doesn’t mean that the person is incapable of learning. Actually, it is more so that they are hyper-learners that are constantly observing patterns and relationships whether it be in regards to their special interests, studying ‘alien’ social interactions, or tuning into sensory experiences most of us fail to recognize. Giving the autistic individual the opportunity to fuel their energies into their interests is not only an outlet from the confusion and stress of this world, but it also provides them a special skill that can lead to a career.

Not only is it important to educate autistic individuals in reference to ‘general knowledge’ , but to also help teach them the unwritten rules, expectations, expressions, emotions, and behaviors. Having social rules and stories that lay out the expectations and alternatives of social situations are extremely helpful in preparing and ‘predicting’ the social dance that comes more easily to us NTs.

Educate friends, family, teachers, students, the world

Many individuals have learned what they know about autism from the media, which means that their education is substandard to say the least. Being an advocate means being strong enough to stand up and correct misconceptions when you hear or see them. Being able to provide a supportive and nurturing environment for an autistic individual, whether they are a child or an adult, means that it is of great importance to correct the misconceptions of others that can negatively affect how the world views autistics. Correcting the misconceptions is the first step in opening up a world full of opportunities.

4.       Don’t eliminate choice

Don’t view the child as incapable of making their own choices. Sure there are some choices that are important to make together, but by not including the child or individual in the decisions, you are demeaning their opinions. Letting them make decisions about what they are ready for or what they want to do is important in allowing them to build confidence in their capabilities to decide for themselves while also demonstrating that you DO care about their thoughts and feelings. Being able to feel important and like you matter is a huge contributor to self-esteem especially when faced with a world that may not be of the same opinions.

Do not force your child to be social if they do not want to be and encourage them to engage in behaviors that satisfy their intellectual capacity.   Many children eventually want to be social and will attempt to do so on their own.  If and when they reach this point, you should help them, but never force them to do something they don’t want to.  If you force them they will resent the activity and become even more opposed to it.

5.       Be clear

There is so much gray area in what we say and do in social situations that it is not only important to clarify with the person we are speaking to, but it is also important to be clear when we are communicating in the first place. When talking to an autistic individual who interprets the literal meanings of words or who you may know has difficulty with certain social situations, it is easy to adjust your own interactions to make communication easier. This does not entail speaking slowly or raising your voice, both of these things are extremely demeaning and disrespectful. Being able to modify your own actions also entails knowing what adjustments need to be made with the autistic person in your life.

Be clear and explicit in directions.   Many autistic children take words and sentences at face value.  They recognize things as black and white and do not understand underlying meanings.  If a child does not know explicit meanings or directions, it is very easy for the task they have to take a path of its own.

6.    Find ways to communicate

Allow alternative forms of communication.  Many autistics are non-verbal and even those who are verbal often will feel more comfortable using electronics or writing in order to express important or anxiety filled things.  Other forms of communication make some things easier and allow for consistent understanding.

7.     Accommodate sensitivities

Avoid crowded places when possible. Many autistics have sensory hyperactivities and may get overwhelmed by a lot of sounds, colors, shapes, and lights.  It can make it even more stressful if there are a lot of people around that the child may be trying to pay attention to.  This makes the entire situation very stressful and traumatic for many autistics.

8.      Don’t assume- ASK!

Ask a person with autism their preferences.  All autistics are different just as each neurotypical is different.  It is important not to assume that they are all the same and that one experience in the past means that all the rest of the autistics you encounter will act in a similar way.  It may be true that they might, but it is extremely likely that they have a different perspective or expectation.

Because a key point of autism are the differences in thought processes, it is only logical to note that the large gray area that exists within ‘normal’ social interactions may not be translated as effectively as we would assume. Instead of taking for granted that we know what an autistic individual is thinking, feeling, or comprehending, we can take a lesson from their directness and ask. It is one of the most obvious, but still somehow forgotten, social decencies that should be readily invoked.

9.     Don’t try to change them

Never stop a child from doing harmless, stress relieving activities such as rocking, flapping, or tapping.  These are coping mechanisms that allow them to deal with stress.  They may be socially different, but they should not be considered unacceptable.  You  may have your own coping mechanisms just like they do.

Autism is not a condition or a disease that can be removed or modified to be more ‘socially acceptable’. When treatments seek to change what is as intricately linked to the person as their DNA, they can only succeed in creating a mask to hide who the individual really is. As we have learned, while it may be possible to mimic ‘normality’ in certain situations, it is exhausting and self-harming having to pretend to be someone you’re not.

10.       Find new ways to learn

Use child specific learning mechanisms with autistics.  There are many different ways to learn and many different children with autism take a different path depending on how they function best or how their brain “sees” things.  It would allow for a the most intellectual success and enjoyment if the child is able to find a mechanism of learning that fits them specifically.

11.       Be Supportive, accepting, understanding

Relating support back to not seeking to change the people that you care about, means being whole-heartedly accepting. This does not mean accepting only the positive aspects of autism, but also the quirks that we might not understand. While we may become sad at the thought of spending time alone at recess, the autistic child embraces their alone time to expand their own personal world in a way that we simply cannot understand. Instead of doing what we feel is right in the particular situation, we must think about what is right for the autistic individual, what they want, what they feel.

12.       Don’t underestimate

Unfortunately because of the consideration of autism as a DISability, the first thing that comes to mind is ‘can’t’ . I believe that Frank Klein describes it best when he says, “Can’t is a horrible word, perhaps one of the most disabling words in the English language. Don’t concentrate on what your child cannot do; concentrate on what he can do, and build on that every chance you get. As you do, “can’t” will get smaller and smaller with the passing of each day.” Empower the child by helping them develop and perfect their special skills instead of focusing or changing what they are unable to do.

13.       Get involved

Being supportive is not only a job for the sidelines, it most definitely a team sport. Being a bystander in your friend, family member, or child’s life is still a way of being unaccepting. When John Klein’s mother noticed his rocking behavior, she didn’t try to modify it, nor did she simply ignore it, but she even went so far as to buy him a rocking chair. A well fueled team needs every type of player from the ones on the fields to the dancing, spinning cheerleaders.

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