I still remember the first time a friend of mine from college found out his son had autism. “My wife and I face enough obstacles as it is, I wonder what more challenges an autistic child might add to the marriage”, he said. Will they ever find love and acceptance?
If you love and care for someone with autism, I am sure you need no introduction to the difficulties. However, this article about the autistic will inspire you and invoke compassion. Here are eighteen things to remember if you love someone with autism.
1. They are not broken – Autism is nobody’s fault
It is human nature to want to fix things that we think to be broken. When dealing with an autistic loved one, it is all too easy to go into “fix it” mode. However, this mindset can be very damaging. When trying to create a nurturing relationship, remember that your loved one didn’t choose autism. It is no more their fault than it is yours. It is important that you continue to show love, empathy and a genuine desire to understand the struggles they face.
2. They can be socially awkward
Everyone has had moments where they experienced social awkwardness. When you love someone who has autism, you will experience these frequent moments of social incompetence by association. The embarrassment and frustration that you feel is understandable. Yet remember that aggression, compulsive behavior and hyperactivity are symptoms of the condition and are outside of their control. Life is hard and short as it is, find happiness in learning to find some humor in these moments.
3. They can be hard to communicate with
From initial speech delays in their early developmental years to speech impairments as they progress, it can be hard to communicate with someone who is autistic. Loved ones will constantly have to find new and creative ways to connect. Remember that speaking isn’t the only way to talk.
4. They have limited focus
If a loved one has autism, remember that they probably have limited focus. This means that they either will zone in on a few limited things or can’t focus on anything at all. However, you can turn this challenge into a positive opportunity. If you find one thing that they love, be supportive and help them flourish.
5. They can seem to lack emotion
Most of us have learned to communicate, connect and understand social clues with facial expressions and eye contact. Many people who have autism will lack expressive features. They avoid eye contact, often speak monotone and wear blank expressions. This may make them seem apathetic. They may not be able to communicate in a way we understand. But lack of expression does not mean lack of emotion or empathy.
6. They like structure
Many of our autistic loved ones are obsessive about repetition and routine. It is not always going to be easy in our normal lives of chaos and disorder to accommodate this need for balance. But understand that the more you can create an atmosphere of routine and stability, the more you allow them to thrive.
7. They love information – trivia
It’s not uncommon to find that our autistic loved ones are a wealth of information when it comes to random trivia statisticsand knowledge. Like a sponge, they have them ability to regurgitate stored information eloquently. While this behavior is often compulsive, remember that they are sharing what they love or care about with you. Be patient and take the time to listen to what could be their passion.
8. They are visual learners
There are many ways to learn, and being autistic makes you no different. In this age of information overload, visual support helps autistic kids move more efficiently through the day. Before we judge our loved ones with autism as slow, remember that even we “regular learners” sometimes need some visual aid to help us process and digest information better.
9. They are not all the same
Too often we might want to box everyone with autism and characterize them as all being the same. This common misconception is flawed. The condition affects everyone differently and each case will require a different type of specialized attention. It is important to treat everyone with autism respectfully and celebrate their individuality. Knowing one person with autism means nothing because they are all so uniquely different.
10 . They have unusual eating behaviors
Unusual eating behavior is a common occurrence in most people who develop autism. Autistic kids have extreme sensitivities and preferences when it comes to food choices. This can be frustrating to deal with. Yet it is a problem that if you are aware of, can save a lot of heartache. However remember that in this age of diets, we all have at some point developed unusual eating habits.
11. They are resistant to touch
Sometimes all we want to do with the ones we love who have autism is touch them, hold them and comfort them. Unfortunately individuals with autism are often uncomfortable and resist being touched. Remember though that while you may want to comfort them with your touch, it is really you who is seeking the comfort.
12. They can be sensory sensitive
The normal everyday hustle and bustle can be overwhelming to our loved ones with autism. Normal senses like sight, sound, and taste can be jarring, frightening and painful. It is impossible to avoid all outside stimuli but understanding the discomfort they go through is a huge first step to loving someone with the condition.
13. They take things literally
Puns, nuances, metaphors, and idioms are too often lost and confusing to the autistic. “Hold your horses”, “it’s a piece of cake”, “lets hit the road”. We use these phrases every day without even realizing we have said them. However to our loved ones with autism they make language confusing and hard to understand. If you have ever read an Amelia Bedlia book, you will understand how confusing language can be without a point of reference.
14. They can be temperamental
Unusually, this is a sign or signal that something is wrong. When our loved ones seem to be agitated, withdrawn or manic, do not answer with a quick and impulsive response to the behavior. Instead try to understand that these behaviors are symptom of missed communication. They may be trying to tell you they are tired, frustrated or hungry.
15. They need affirmation and reassurance
Everyone understands the power of positive affirmation and reassurance. As humans, it is something we have come to crave and thrive on. When dealing with an autistic loved one, remember that need is greatly heightened.
16. They have difficulty finding medical help
Being medically diagnosed with autism is not the same as having the flu where you can find quick and easy access to medical care. The condition is extremely individual and no two cases will be the same. This poses a challenge for medical doctors and therapists to medicate the condition. Because this quote from Doctor, musician and author, Stephen Shore, who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome as a child, is true:
“If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”
17. They still like to have fun
If you have a loved one with autism, remember that they still deserve to have fun and joy in their lives. Education and therapy are important but so is play time. Try not to lock them away or limit their experiences. Find things that they enjoy and schedule a time to engage in those actives.
18. They are not a label
Our labels often carry perceptions that limit our passions and hinder us from becoming who we want to be. When others think of someone with autism, they probably assume the definitions and limit people’s lives to its stereotypes and perceptions: slow, difficult, weird, disruptive, etc.
If you have a loved one with autism, remember that they are not the label, they are not a Noun. Do not limit their lives to the false perceptions of the condition. People with autism are unique in their Verbs, passions and talents.
“We are not Nouns limited to the complete truth of a Noun, label and its perception; we are Verbs liberated in the actions of our passions.”
Be the Verb – Not the Noun
Living with someone that is autistic is not all bad and if they are allowed to thrive, they can contribute immensely to society. Hopefully you are inspired by these eighteen things to remember if you love a person with autism.
Featured photo credit: http://www.mychildwithoutlimits.org/understand/autism/ via mychildwithoutlimits.org