We have much to learn about autism. Fortunately, both awareness and research is increasing dramatically. Another rich source of information comes from the true experts: individuals with autism. Two of the most compelling books on my kindle are Ido in Autismland by Ido Kedar and The reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida. These two young authors explain so many things first hand, helping us understand what it is like to live with autism, while challenging us to think deeper. Here is a little food for thought:
- Don’t judge outward behaviors on face value—persons with autism (especially those who are non-verbal) may have behaviors that are difficult to understand from a neurotypical perspective. Case in point: repetitive behaviors that can be distracting actually serve a purpose for the individual and do not mean that he cannot also attend to a conversation at the same time.
- Don’t talk down to individuals with autism. Talking loud, slow, or using simple words is making an assumption that that the person you are talking to is mentally challenged. This may very well not be the case. In the words of Ido: “I want people to know I have an intact mind”.
- We need to re-think how we judge and evaluate children with autism and make sure that we do not punish behaviors that have purpose, meaning and utility for them. This can lead to anxiety and unnecessary suffering.