April is Autism Awareness month, and though I shared this post a couple years ago, it bears re-posting as this information is still pertinent. What is different this year, is not only are we raising awareness about autism, we are also going to be fundraising for a special project for Autism Support for Kent Country (ASK). ASK offers a lot of programs and resources to individuals and families for those on the spectrum. However, since Covid-19 there has been an increased need and new challenges for young autistic adults and their families. ASK is hoping to get a new program off the ground by the end of summer to that will help these individuals increase independence and self-reliance. This program will teach some hygiene skills, nutrition and cooking, health and exercise, all while improving self-confidence and increasing social connections. The other major aspect of this program is that it will be a drop-in program so participants can attend on their own, thus providing parents/caregivers some respite. You can find out more by watching our ASK videos on our Autism Awareness page or Facebook page. If you are interested in donating to this worth cause you can head here to donate. As an added bonus, I will personally match up to $10,000 of all donations made in April to ASK. If you had been thinking about donating, now is definitely the time!
Back to my original post, that I'd like to re-share. It was just a few years ago that autism awareness become very personal to me. I found out I am Asperger’s, which is considered an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As part of my effort to raise awareness, I am going to forego the statistics and facts about ASD, and give you a few things that those of us in the autism community would like you to know about us, and second, share a couple tips on ways to positively interact with an autistic person.
1- We are different. You cannot compare us to other people and think about us in the same way. Because Autism Spectrum Disorders are neurological, we may look totally “normal” on the outside, when in fact, we think and behave very differently than most “normal” people.
2- We are not disabled. Sure there are lots of things that can make it difficult to function on a day to day basis, but that does not mean we are not capable of living our own lives.
3- We do not always react appropriately. Usually, people with an ASD have a hard time processing and understanding societal norms, especially when it comes to social interaction. It does not mean we are immature or we do not care, it just means that sometimes we are unsure how we are supposed to act or respond.
4- We are not broken. We do not need fixing or some kind of solution. And we certainly do not need a cure. We need people to love and accept us and understand that this is who we are.
Ways to have positive interaction with someone that is autistic.
1- Be patient. Sometimes it can take us a lot longer to answer a question or complete a task, simply because we are thinking about it in greater detail than most people would. A lot of the time people with ASD, especially Asperger’s, can feel like we are talking in a second language at times.
2- Listen. Most of the time we say exactly what we mean to say and we mean exactly what we say. We need people to listen to what we are trying to communicate and not assume that we might be implying something different.
3- Try to avoid sudden and unexpected change. Sudden change can make us anxious and nervous. In those situations we do not always know what to do, because we have not mentally prepared for them yet.
4- Do not get frustrated if we do not look at you or make eye contact. We are most likely giving you our full attention, we just tend not to look at people when we are talking, because it helps us to concentrate on what we are hearing and saying.
I do understand that this list may not apply to everyone with an ASD nor is it exhaustive, but it does apply to lot of individuals on the spectrum. You have to remember that autism is not one size fits all. When you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism.