“How do you explain Autism?”
…….great choice of a post I say to myself as I stare at the cursor blinking on my blank page……(as I sort of know what I want to say, but am also not sure how to word it)…..But I have been prompted into writing this post by a comment made to me yesterday evening…..and so I hope I word this correctly…..
I have come across many situations….many opinions, many comments, many judgemental stares, I have also felt the annoyance from someone when faced with my childs outspoken comments or perhaps inappropriate behaviour. Some of these situations have caused me to feel angry, sad, bitter, unsure of what to say but also at times I have felt a level of understanding of where these reactions are coming from (even if at the time I am left speechless).
And so, the comment that prompted this post came from a very young child, a friend of my son and although I completely understand the innocence and the explanation by the parent….it still prompted me to write this post…. “My dad said there is something wrong with Jordan’s brain”…….How did I feel about this comment? Especially because it was said in front of my autistic son? ….I didn’t have an answer, I just smiled, changed the subject and carried on.
The day before this comment was made my child had had a complete meltdown because this friend came in and unintentionally moved a whole set-up my child had going with one of his playsets in his room…. Anyone who has dealt with a bit of autism knows that moving something out of sync sometimes causes mayhem. I tried to deal with the situation – I suggested that I suspect the cause is is that the younger friend goes and helps himself to Jordys toys, perhaps the way forward was to ask to play with something and we should see if this changes matters going forward. This poor little friend left in tears (as the meltdown was too the point that we had to separate the two). I can totally understand the dad (who has no previous experience with autism) trying to explain to this very young child what autism is….Hell, its even difficult for me to explain and I have been dealing with it for 11 years!!. But still the comment of “there is something wrong with his brain” stuck with me.
Yes, there is a “misfiring of the brain”, a “different wiring”but to say there is something wrong with his brain, left me feeling (well Im still not sure how i feel).
And so I decided to write my little 5 cents worth as to how we should go about explaining things to younger kids who come into contact with autism.
After doing some research on the internet and reading some additional blogs etc. one thing that stood out for me is – Don’t make Autism seem negative to the child you are explaining it too. “different, not less, should be what you focus on.” Because as soon as something negative is implied that autistic child, should they overhear anything, may feel that they are something to be ashamed of. – This is not what any parent wants for their child!
Another point of the research i did that stood out for me is “How do you, as the parent, feel about Autism?” this reflects on how you go about explaining it. – Do you see it as a disorder, do you see it as being slightly off from the norm or do you see it as being the new norm? There are such varying levels of autism, so this is really dependant on the person you are trying to “explain”and of course “your understanding”of them.
And therefore my conclusion is (and like i say this is my 5 cents worth)…
- Educate yourself first with regards to Autism – and believe me I am not professing to know it all, or think that you don’t – I am just saying do various research into how people have gone about introducing their kids to dealing with someone who may be slightly or largely different to them.
- Use examples for young kids like you aren’t good at skateboarding but you are good at running. Just like Jordan is good at reading and maths but not that good at sharing his toys.
- Focus on the autistic childs strengths and not his negatives
- Explain that God made him just the way he is, with all of his differences, just like you are different from all of your friends.
And so yes, Jordans brain works “differently”. He processes things “differently” BUT different does not mean bad!
And so, I guess, I have answered my own question with regards to how I feel about the comment “something is wrong with Jordan’s brain”. There is nothing “wrong”with it. It is just “different”. It works differently….. but it still works,….. and in some instances it works better than ours.
And so to end….I am not upset or angry, or have any long lasting affects by this comment. I am merely giving some understanding of my feelings, of what and how to approach explaining to a child that his friend may be different. But that the main focus should be he is still a friend non the less, just slightly different, and in the process I may just stop my child feeling less of a person should he overhear a comment being made by an unintentional younger child.