HOW TO BEHAVE WHEN YOU’RE AROUND AN AUTISTIC PERSON
Learning what Autism Spectrum Disorder is about, including its causes, symptoms, and treatment is one thing; knowing what to say and how to behave when you’re around an autistic person is another. Like any other theory-application arguments, it is never enough that you have clinical knowledge about autism but you don’t have any idea how you should portray yourself in real-life situations involving autistic individuals. The importance of learning both can be highlighted in situations where interacting with an autistic individual is necessary or unavoidable.
For families with an autistic member, learning how to act around their autistic loved one will come naturally through experience and the acquired knowledge from medical consultations, although it may not be instantaneous. But for individuals who are not familiar with autistic people interactions, it may be a tough task to approach these occasional situations properly. Your boss may introduce you to their autistic son or daughter, and one small mistake in your conversation can easily offend the latter, which will possibly put your job at risk. It may also be that your parent sibling will ask you to babysit their autistic child (and likewise your niece or nephew). Not being able to effectively tend to their needs will cause a possible disagreement or fight with your sibling which can complicate to more family issues. Getting into a fight with an autistic person because you just can’t understand their behaviour and act properly to it may get you labelled as arrogant or obnoxious. To avoid being portrayed in a bad light because of situations similar to the ones mentioned above, read on and remember these tips on observing proper behaviour when you’re around autistic persons.
Act with the sense that you understand both the person and the disorder.
Autistic persons are also human beings, and the only thing that separates them from neurotypical people is their condition. If you are to engage an autistic person, you must see to it that you’re aware of their disorder but at the same time mindful that they also are capable of feeling. If you focus too much on the fact that they are autistic, you might regard them like a child or introduce them to someone else with the label “autistic” even though they don’t consent you on doing that. Similarly, being too accommodating will let them feel that you’re condescending. On the other hand, ignoring the fact that the person is autistic will result to miscommunication and maltreatment which doesn’t help at all. Be balanced in the manner you treat them, making sure to only talk about their disorder when they’re comfortable with it, and understand that they have special needs that must be met.
Express your feelings and thoughts in a clear and polite way.
It is never the strong point of autistic persons to share in the feelings and thoughts of other people, which makes you the more able person to meet them halfway. You must always be honest with your perceptions and feelings whenever you’re interacting with an autistic individual to avoid any form of misunderstanding. If you are happy, let your statements show it, not just your body language or facial expressions. In the same way, if you are offended or mad about something they said, what you say to them should make them realize their own mistake and learn from it.
Accept the quirkiness and oddity of the autistic person.
It is not encouraged to try to fix or change an autistic person’s behaviour just because you see them as odd or disturbing. You must understand that such restrictive movements and irregularities cannot be altered or eliminated in just one sitting and with your own capabilities alone. Instead, just learn to accept such uniqueness as part of the person’s overall makeup of self, and even welcome them with grace and complete understanding.
Become the instrument that connects the autistic person to others.
There’s nothing wrong with trying to introduce an autistic person to other people, as long as you know how to properly introduce them. Although they might not show it, autistic people also feel the need to connect to others; it’s just that they don’t know how to effectively do it. If you’ve gotten to know an autistic person and you want them to expand their circle of friends, be sure to tell your intention first before rushing anything.
Be watchful for any signs of possible meltdown.
As you learn more about the autistic person, the nature of their disorder and the manner in which they behave, the ability to detect signs of autistic meltdown can naturally develop within yourself. The next time you hang around with an autistic person, you are the best chance they’ve got at preventing their meltdown because the autistic person may not be able to identify such signals on their own. When you think they’re on the verge, the best actions to take would be to take them into a stimuli-free place, like a parking lot or an empty space where there’s no noise, crowd, and other sensory input that could cause them to get agitated. But don’t be too harsh or abrupt with your actions, because quickly grabbing their arm may startle them. You can also offer a hug which they might need sometimes, but if not, just try to give them time to be alone.
Be respectful of the autistic person’s space and sense of freedom.
Just because a person has ASD doesn’t mean you are to treat them differently from a typical human being. You must always treat them with respect and consider their own feelings before doing something that can affect them in a way. When you see other people disrespecting an autistic person through words or actions, you must confront them in a peaceful manner. You can also motivate the autistic person to fight for their rights and privileges, push their own choices and desires, and not let anybody step on their dignity.