“Autists are the ultimate square pegs, and the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that the hammering is hard work. It's that you're destroying the peg.” ― Quote by Paul Collins, an American writer.
Having learned that young Austin Martin (age 5 years) has ASD threw the extended families of the parents – Roy and Tracy Pullman off guard. Friend and relatives were taken aback and found it difficult to express their feelings, love, and support for them & young Austin. Having realized the awkwardness felt by their social circle, Roy and Tracy took it upon themselves to include them in the life of young Austin. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child. So with the help of a counselor as well as ample research on the internet, they were able to formulate some strategies for their loved ones to bond with Austin. This enabled relatives, friends, neighbors, and family friends to be educated & sensitized therefore to be an integral part of the nurturing environment Austin needed.
For friends, family, relatives and others in the social network of a child diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders, it is difficult for them to express love and support as well as be of help. Here are some suggestions on what to say to facilitate interaction with children on the spectrum:
1. “May I help you with anything?” This shows that you care and empathize. The person feels respected and that you are willing to help them with situations.
2. “I am right here in case you wish to talk or share your feelings”. This communicates again that you care and are extending assistance.
3. “Come and join me/us for a meal”. Persons living with ASD can be loners and find difficulty in social interactions. These few words are the open invitation of friendship and support, which is then up to them to take it up or reject it. The main thing is that you have done your bit to make them welcome.
Please find below to tips on how to communicate:
When interacting with a person with ASD, be nice. There is a vast difference between neurotypical people and those with ASD. Little kindness and respect in the body or verbal communication goes a long way. A compliment or words of encouragement are big boosts to morale and confidence. They open channels of communication and long-lasting friendships.
When communicating with anyone, it’s imperative to be a good listener as well as a lookout for non-verbal cues. This is especially important if talking to someone with ASD.
Patience is a virtue that we all must inculcate in all aspects of life. Therefore, be patient when talking to a person with ASD due to their lack of communication skills in most cases. Patience helps in looking out for stressors and unusual movements that may trigger “meltdowns”.
Be clear, precise and keep sentences short as possible. This leaves little scope for ambiguity.
With the above suggestions, you may communicate, strike a friendship, or be a part of the life of a person with ASD. Be mindful, be comfortable, and be considerate in communication.