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Have you ever had a nickname that referred to something embarrassing you had done? Maybe "Booger" because you got caught picking your nose. Or how about "Stinky" if you aren't the best housekeeper on the planet. Do you like being referred to based on things that are not your best qualities? Is that all you want people to see when they look at you? Is it even the first thing you want people to see when they look at you? Probably not. So why would you assume that it's okay to see autism when you look at a child who happens to have it?
Read some of these letters from people who have autism. Though some may find it difficult to deal with and focus on autism, some of them have been able to do what people who don't have autism have difficulty doing. While those of us are constantly seeking ways to "help" those with autism or "find a cure", some people with autism don't want this help and truly wish that others would just leave them alone. They don't view the autism as a problem, just something that is a part of them, much like some of your behaviors are part of you.
It's important to remember that the behaviors do not make the person. Too often people are judged on their behavior, though others may have no idea what caused the behavior. Use some of the tips below to help you to see the child instead of the autism.
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Individuals and Autism
Follow some of the tips below to help to see the individual rather than the autism.
- Never refer to them as "autistic". They really don't need a reminder and anyone working with them should review the required files to better serve them.
- Remember who you are. You probably wouldn't like it if someone referred to you based on one single aspect of you. For instance, if your name is Ted and your favorite color is blue, would you like to be introduced as "blue lover Ted"? Does that make you up entirely? I didn't thing so.
- If you need to refer to the autism, use some manners and say things like "Carol has autism", not "autistic Carol".
- Keep in mind that the people who have autism are going to have it all of their lives. You aren't going to cure it no matter how hard you work and that shouldn't even be the goal. What the goal should be is to focus on the positive aspects of the person and help them use their skills to develop and grow into a productive member of society.
- The sooner you accept that the autism is just one part of who this person is, the sooner they will be able to accept that and get on with their lives.
Focusing on the autism is a sure way for those with autism to be forced to focus on it as well. As someone who enjoys working with children, I can tell you that it is very upsetting to me to watch a child who has autism simply take it in stride when someone says, "They can't control it. They are autistic." after the child has done something wrong. The fact is, the parent just gave them a blanket excuse for any type of behavior they may exhibit as well as a complete definition of who they are in one sentences, neither of which is healthy or productive for the child who happens to have autism.