In respecting the privacy of people around me, I am frequently not specific about the origin of a whimsical thought but often the people around me are the source new ideas and ways of thinking.
I am not a big part of the Autism community, I don’t have Autism, I am not Autistic in any way, although there are quirky moments that are not too dissimilar to those nearest and dearest to me – the apple never falls far from the tree, eh.
However, I am blessed to frequently be in the company of many people who find their perception of the world to be on what NeuroTypicals (NT’s) call “The Autism Spectrum”. I am so frequently in their company that being around NT Kids sometimes is what strikes me as strange, with their quirky NT Ways. (Joke).
For those who may be new to the wonderful world of Autism (particularly HFA and Asperger’s in my personal experience), here are a couple of thoughts.
The kids are wonderful, and annoying at times in very typical kid ways, and funny and bright and interested and intriguing and loving and did I mention funny, and smart as anything. They are a delight.
To watch someone discover the Universe on a timetable with different priorities to you, perhaps in a less linear fashion, and then describe that universe back to you is so enriching and you learn so much about what was only background noise in your life before that point. A total delight.
Just because you don’t initially understand what is important to them or interests them or if they are unable to explain why something has to be that way, don’t dismiss it, listen, put yourself in their shoes, try to comprehend, use all of your senses to comprehend (touch, sound, taste, sight and on and on).
The kids will be hard on themselves. Be aware of this. If and when they get in trouble at school or elsewhere, find out what happened from their perspective. If they are having a hard time finding a positive peer group, it will hit them hard too. Molehills are mountains, be aware, love them, reassure them, explain the NT world to them. If they are able to receive loving correction, do that too.
Always express happiness in seeing them. The communication style is often quite literal. If they don’t actively see you being happy to see them, they sometimes will not make the leap that you are happy on the inside. There is often only what there is.
Listen, listen and listen.
Laugh with them, often just because they are a delight.
Help them develop in ways that match and meet their understanding. To the toddler who won’t put on a jacket because the sun is shining in winter, find a compromise today and explain weather patterns and forecasts before the next time you need them to put their coat on.
Make LOTS of time available for nurturing and communication.
Teach during the good times, the non frazzled times, the happy times.
Love them, unconditionally, regardless of their “behaviour” sometimes being less than optimal (which almost always has a not so easily identifiable reason behind it anyway). The children/young adults I have the blessing of being around need to know that NO MATTER WHAT, you are a safe place where they can find refuge like a ship in harbour. Love them first, deal with “stuff” second.
Ask open ended find out questions. You will never in a million years guess what it looks like from their perspective, or what their concern really is, so ask and give them time to respond.
I’ve noticed that people on the Autism Spectrum have difficulty discerning what other peoples expectation are in the context of conversation (social interaction). They often cannot guess or judge how much the other person has allocated to the conversation so will cut their answers short to avoid being perceived as annoying when really if you have the interest in hearing, they have a lot to share.
Its the difference between “how was your day” “Fine”, verses “I am interested, tell me about your day…” “Well, so and do did blah blah and then I laughed so hard that milkshake spurted out of my nose!!!….” (true story).
Know that you will devote a large chunk of time, for the rest of your days, explaining and interpreting the NT world for them. The “but why” doesn’t stop at 3 years old. It is exhausting, try to pace yourself a little if you can.
Keep a gentle heart and a loving countenance as much as possible. Sometimes you need to change your body language to indicate displeasure, but let your default be gentleness and trust.
Build a relationship of trust.
Raise your game. There is a strong possibility the kids will be far smarter than you 😀
Limitations schmimitations. You didn’t know how far you’d come when you were 3 or 4 or 5 etc, with love and opportunities and gentleness and guidelines and safety and someone to be a voice, there is no knowing how the little ones will blossom. The children are who they are. The children will become adults in their own right too.
It is an amazing, exhausting, sometimes upsetting experience but one with which I am happy, nay delighted, to be trusted. Parenting is difficult at the best of times and we all just hopefully are trying our best. We are almost 16 years in to this experience so I am watching a wonderful young woman with Asperger’s start to approach and plan for adulthood…. it’s so exciting! (And daunting a little).
I hope you have a positive experience.
(Note: these are my experiences and are thus valid, but I recognise and make space for your experiences to differ and vary from the above. If you agree with any of the content or wish to discuss, please feel free to share).