Have you and your child ever gone to a grocery store and seen another child throwing a tantrum while the parent stood helpless? Maybe you were patient and offered help, but did your child understand what was happening? In order to truly spread autism awareness, we must remember to educate our children of what autism is.
The American Autism Association provides an 100 Day Kit to act as a guide for parents of children with autism during the first 100 days after their love one’s diagnosis. Jennifer Newton Reents, a Registered Nurse with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, wrote an article titled “Telling the Family: This is Autism” where she gave tips on how to explain an autism diagnosis to others.
When it comes to explaining to children, be sure to use simple vernacular and examples. It may help to use simple stories as examples. Here are the quick tips from Reents:
- Try not to be too detailed when explaining autism. Too much information may just lead to confusion. Just start with the fact that things may seem a little different for children with autism.
- Encourage children to ask questions and although you may not know all the answers, giving a little information at a time is helpful.
- Encourage your child to discuss their thoughts and feelings about the topic. Be sure to listen carefully and offer advice as needed.
- Let your child know about the symptoms of autism that may come off as odd or rude such as avoiding eye contact, avoiding physical contact, and having no filter in the things they say.
- Tell your child the importance of accepting others. Kids with autism need more personal space and patience. So ask your child not to their form of intimacy on others and interact with them at a pace that is comfortable for them.
- Explain to your child that children with autism have certain sensory issues, phobias, and environmental triggers and to be aware of these traits, knowing when to intervene and help.
- Teach your child some simplified skills to assist other children with autism. This may be a bit difficult, but giving your child some guidelines for what they should do when they see a child with autism in distress, in need of help, or even just in need of companionship will be valuable for promoting understanding to your child and his/her peers.
Finally, remind your children to be respectful of others no matter how different they might seem and to treat others as they would want to be treated. Feel free to go to the American Autism Association site for information on autism and contact us using the Help Hotline for more resources.