How to Understand an Autistic Person’s Needs

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The understanding and attitude towards autism varies between people and communities. Some notice the signs of autism in near and dear ones and immediately seek treatment. However there are some who are still ignorant or not very clear about the impact of autism in someone. If you have someone in your family, neighborhood, school or workplace who show these symptoms, you can be considerate of that individual and speak to them or their family so they can receive support.

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    1 Look for developmental differences. Autistic children may develop more quickly in some areas and more slowly than others. They may need help learning to communicate, walk, read, and more. It has been described as a “different road entirely.”[1]

    • Children who do not learn to speak right away can use AAC such as sign language, picture exchange communication systems (PECS), picture boards, and more. Don’t be afraid that using alternative communication systems will hold back language; it won’t hold them back, may actually encourage verbalizations, and can bridge the gap until they learn to speak (if they are ever able to).[2]
    • Children who have trouble controlling their bodies may not be able to let on that they are thinking more deeply than others realize.[3][4]
    • Some autistic children develop at an average or fast speed relative to their non-autistic peers. Delayed skills may not be visible until childhood, teen, or adult years.

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    2 Keep an eye on communication struggles. Autistic children may have difficulty expressing themselves, and understanding others.

    • They may find it hard to express how they feel.
    • They tend to think literally, and may have trouble understanding implications, hints, metaphors, or tasks that require them to “read between the lines.”
    • They may not understand body language, and have difficulty recognizing what it means and how to use it.
    • Other people may judge them negatively for being different. Harsh, critical, or cruel feedback may make an autistic child feel anxious about socializing.
  3. 3 Recognize how school can be harder for autistic children. Some autistic children may need extra help learning the material, while others may be underchallenged and bored. Regardless of intelligence, many autistic students struggle to stay organized, communicate with teachers, handle transitions, and stay on top of all the bustle of a school day. Extra support can help meet their unique needs.
    • A school can form an IEP to identify the student’s strengths and needs, and set goals for learning at their individual pace.
    • Untreated co-occurring health problems, such as anxiety disorders or digestive issues, may cause them to miss school more often.
    • Not all support and “tutoring” is based in academic subjects, either. Autistic children may benefit from educational therapy or coaching for executive functioning and organization/time-management skills. Tutoring sessions on learning how to study, how to organize your time, and how to approach assignments can be just as helpful, if not more so, than tutoring focused on the actual academic subject.
  4. 4 Consider how autistic kids may struggle to make friends. Autistic people find it difficult to read non-autistic body language, and understand what their peers are thinking. Therapies such as RDI can help autistic children learn to communicate well with people who are so different from them.
    • Many autistic people describe the difference as a cultural divide, as if they had come from another planet with different customs.[5] Extra support can help lessen the “culture shock” and explain common non-autistic social norms, such as white lies and eye contact.
  5. 5 Recognize the risk of bullying. Autistic people are more likely to be targeted by bullies, and may not know how to respond to it or recognize the types of bullying. A specialist can help them recognize when someone is being mean and develop an action plan for getting help (and what to do if adults are unhelpful).
    • Take your loved one seriously if they say someone is deeply upsetting them. Even if you don’t fully understand it, let them know that their emotions are important and…
Sasha Harriet

Sasha Harriet

As content editor, I get to do what I love everyday. Tweet, share and promote the best content our tools find on a daily basis.

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Sasha Harriet

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