The CDC reports that 1 in 68 children will be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Based on this statistic, it is likely that you will interact with an autistic individual at multiple points in your life. Autism is likely the result of a combination of genetic risk factors and environment and there is no reported “cure.” This means that learning how to interact with and support someone who has autism is imperative.
The Department of Health offers some suggestions to support people with autism.
- Explain at every stage what you are about to do, what will happen next and why.
- Give the person enough time to understand the information you are sharing and wait a few seconds for a response if it not given immediately.
- Questions should be clear and direct using language that is easy to understand and pictures where necessary – do not rely on the person to pick up on the meaning of your questions.
- People with autism might take what you say literally so avoid words with a double meaning and humor that could be misunderstood.
- Maintain a routine – familiarity is often important to some people with autism.
- Social difficulties may include lack of eye contact and unusual body language, talking at inappropriate moments or about inappropriate topics.
- Repetitive behaviors might be a coping mechanism and therefore should be respected
- The environment is important – some people with autism are particularly sensitive to light, movement, sounds, smell and touch. Try to keep the immediate environment as calm as possible to help alleviate anxiety.
- Always consider the person’s behavior in terms of his or her autism, even if it becomes challenging.
- Ask the person what support they might need.
Author: Emma Draluck