World Autism Awareness Day, and I wanted to ask a bit of a favor of you: remember autism. From recent reports, this condition now affects 1 child in 88 born today (1 in 54 boys).
And honestly, it's the little things that really help the most:
- If you see a mom having trouble with her child in a store, when the child is throwing a tantrum or simply not listening, it's possible that mother is dealing with an autistic child who's having a sensory meltdown. This happens when the kid's senses are out of whack, making them hypersensitive to some stimuli (various noises, too much visual activity, even the feeling of some clothing fabrics or textures of foods can be triggers) and it actually causes them pain.
- If you see a parent throwing a fit because the food her child received at a restaurant contains gluten or casein, keep in mind that omitting those proteins may be what's keeping her child from becoming uncontrollable (I'd imagine this one is more understandable for people reading this blog).
- If you see a kid who's "stimming," or shaking their hands around or doing something that looks like grabbing at imaginary butterflies, don't stare or get uncomfortable - this is the way that many autistic kids blow off a little steam, like tapping a pencil or drumming your fingers.
- If you hear a child grunting, squealing, or squawking and it is annoying you, think about how annoying it must be to be that child and not be able to form words. Many autistics are non-communicative because they physically can't speak, even though they may have a lot to say.
- If you see a kid who's ignoring you when you try to be friendly and say hi, they may not just be rude or insensitive, they may be autistic with severe social issues and not understand the reason behind being friendly or social, so they simply aren't. Many autistic kids have to intellectually learn the social cues that neurotypical folks take for granted.
There's so much more I could go into here, but it's really important that, especially with the rising rates of autism in the world, we understand that these kids need some different sorts of understanding. If you'd like to look into this more, I highly recommend the book: Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew by Ellen Notbohm. It's short and to the point, but it'll explain a lot of the stuff I just mentioned and more.