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15 Things to Remember When You Love Someone with Autism

15 Things to Remember When You Love Someone with Autism

People with ASD (autism spectrum disorders) face enormous challenges. In many cases, autism flies under the radar. But if sufferers get the right kind of support and encouragement, it can make an enormous difference.

In the UK, about 1 in 100 people are liable to suffer from this incurable condition, while the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in the USA estimates that 1 in 68 births may have this disease. Some experts say that as many as 66% of adults with autism are not getting adequate support.

If you have a family member suffering from autism—which also includes Asperger’s and other co-morbid conditions—here are 15 ways you can love them and support them.

1. Learn about autism

Look out for some of the early symptoms so that you can get a diagnosis and make sure your child is on the fast track for better treatment and support at home and at school. The earlier, the better.

Some babies seem abnormally focused on certain objects and do not make eye contact. Toddlers may develop normally, but around the age of three you may notice that they are paying no attention to the normal social signals. The main problems occur when they display a lack of social interaction skills and will not want to share toys and mingle with other kids. They become obsessed with repetitive movements or behaviour which is often referred to as “stimming.”

Severity of symptoms will vary widely and some kids may only be mildly affected. But early symptoms usually center on a language delay, or the ability to relate to others and behave in a flexible way. Once you start learning about the disorder, you will feel more empowered and better able to cope as the child grows up.

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A must-read novel is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon, which provides a wonderful insight into the strange world of an autistic child who decides to become a detective!

2. Understand your child better

A key to great support will come from studying the child closely and realizing what makes them uncomfortable and badly behaved. Notice what makes them feel at ease and more co-operative. Listen to the sounds they make and notice their facial expressions especially when they are hungry, irritable, or tired.

3. Discover your child’s talents

We should keep in mind that 30% of these kids have an IQ which is in the normal range. About 10% of autistic children have rather special intellectual abilities and skills which are remarkable. This certainly makes up for their lack of social skills. Let me list a few for you:

  • Powerful memory skills
  • Musical talent
  • Artistic skills
  • Math skills
  • Honesty
  • Intense focusing skills

Check out this link for kids and teens with autism who displayed enormous talent.

Many children can read fluently, memorize large chunks of texts, do calendar calculation, and dismantle or assemble things. Help your child discover his or her niche by letting them explore their passions and interests.

If your child loves animals, get him to help out a local animal shelter.

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4. Help them overcome language difficulties

Autistic children may have problems with understanding idioms and metaphors, not to mention sarcasm and jokes. Time to simplify things by speaking clearly without using fancy metaphors.

Don’t tell a child that something is “a piece of cake.” Just say, “this is really easy.” Similarly, it is better to say you are “really busy” instead of “busy as a bee.”

5. Resist labelling your child

Everybody loves a label because it defines the problem and the boundaries. On the other hand, this can be negative because it classifies a person and this is too limiting. Full acceptance of what autism involves can help us to accept our children as they are. They will have quirks, oddities and limits. Accept the differences, celebrate little successes so that your child will gain self-esteem. Resist using ‘normal’ children as a yardstick for your child’s progress.

6. Break down instructions

Teachers of autistic children need to concentrate on the students’ strengths in concrete thinking and learning by heart. They can effectively use visual aids in helping students learn, gain self-esteem, and improve self-control.

Both parents and teachers need to break down instructions into individual units instead of giving too many in a short space of time.

7. Use more visuals

Using pictures and drawings in the home can often avoid problems and accidents. They are also an invaluable aid to bridging the communication gap between the child, parents, and teachers.

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The great thing about visuals is that they do not disappear, like words do, into thin air! They can help the child to put things in order so that they can learn a skill step by step. They are a great aid for rehearsing and practising, whether they are school tasks or household chores.

8. Use routines and schedules consistently

Children and adults suffering from autism thrive on well-established routines and schedules.

Having an organized schedule when meals, school, treatment and play time happen with unfailing regularity is a great help. It is advisable to keep interruptions or changes to a bare minimum, and as far as possible you should warn the child in advance. Kids tend to become fixated with one object or task and when this is removed, all hell can break loose.

9. Reach out for support

Find a local organization in your area which helps and supports families who are coping with autism. Sometimes they have a helpline and you will be able to exchange experiences and get advice from other people who are living with this condition.

10. Help with sensory issues

One of the things we learn about autism early on is how kids and adults can be hypersensitive to most sensory perceptions. This will include touch, light, smell and sounds. Researchers at UC San Francisco found that autistic children’s brains are wired differently, which partially accounts for their sensory perception issues. Basically, they have difficulty in processing all stimulation coming from the senses.

Attending shows or watching TV with its garish colors and loud crashing sounds can be traumatic for kids. This explains the success of The Lion King which was hailed as the first autism-friendly production in history!

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Common problems arise when kids scream uncontrollably if their faces get wet or they try to eat inedible things. One possible solution is to note what usually triggers these responses and make an effort to avoid them. It must be said that autistic kids are not always consistent in their reaction to certain stimuli.

11. Decide which treatment plan is best

No one size fits all when it comes to the best treatment. It is alarming to learn that there are over 400 treatments according to the WebMD site. Each treatment has to be tailor made for your child. It will certainly include a very predictable routine, your child’s interests, and activities which are highly structured. Teaching tasks are always step by step. In addition, there are features in place for rewarding positive behaviour and celebrating successes. Behavior therapy is the one treatment which has shown the most promise.

12. Get up to speed on your child’s rights

A child who suffers from autism or a similar disorder has certain rights at school and in society. The parents may be the only advocates they have so it is important to know what is available and how it can benefit your child. Again, your local support group will be able to help you out on this one. It will also depend on which country or state you live in. It is important that you know whether special education services or IEP is available in your state and you need to be actively involved in it. It will also help you deal with issues at home, and teamwork here can be of great assistance. You may have to insist on getting a second, independent opinion about your child’s diagnosis. You can also request an IEP meeting if you feel that your child’s needs are not being catered to.

13. Build in sensory breaks

Some repetitive actions and movements are a comfort to the autistic person. He or she will find solace in them and it is recommended that they have a sensory break every few hours. Individual needs will vary. But activities like rocking, spinning, rubbing something, or even wearing a weighted blanket can help. Getting exercise too is a great way to help with calming down. There is some excellent advice in the book by Martha Herbert, a researcher at Harvard, called The Autism Revolution: Whole-Body Strategies for Making Life All It Can Be.

14. Helping teens and adults look for jobs

Employment prospects for people with autism can be a problem. There are encouraging signs that nonprofit organizations are leading the way in making employers more aware of the unique talents that autistic people can bring to the workplace. One of these is Specialisterne USA which was founded by Thorkil Sonne whose youngest son has autism. Their organization is hoping to create 100,000 jobs in the next year or so in the USA.

15. Brad’s story will encourage you

Brad suffers from autism and cannot speak. But from an early age, his father spotted his enormous talent for putting things together, like model aeroplanes and furniture. He now has his own furniture assembly business. Watch the video to learn how autism can lead to great opportunities and creativity.

Let us know in the comments how you have supported a loved one with autism.

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

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