What is autism?
With 1 in 59 children being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, kids are getting curious. And we need to know how to explain autism to a child.
While explaining autism to a child might sound complicated, there are things you can do to make autism easier to understand. You can explain it in a way that they will be able to not only know what autism is but how it affects the person with ASD.
Continue reading this article to learn what children need to know about autism.
Why People Need to Learn About Autism
Everyone should learn about autism. When people don’t understand something, they are afraid of it. Autism awareness leads to autism acceptance which makes everyone’s lives easier.
While most people have heard of autism before, most people don’t understand what it is or how to explain it. Not understanding or being able to explain autism makes it difficult for us to pass down knowledge to children.
Getting a fuller understanding of autism yourself will allow you to educate others on this important subject.
Understand Autism Is Complex
Before you start talking to children about autism, what it is and how to see it in others, you need to understand that autism doesn’t look the same for everyone. There are different levels of autism and while one person may exhibit behaviors in one way, another autistic person may not have that at all.
Some people may be undergoing ABA therapy and others may seek treatment in other ways.
When you’re talking to kids, you don’t want them to be on the look out for people that are autistic but instead when they do come in contact with kids that aren’t typical kids, you want them to not only tolerate but will welcome them.
Best Practices for Helping Typical Kids Understand Autistic Kids
Before talking to kids, you need to make sure that you’re comfortable talking about autism. If you put off any signals that you’re nervous or not accepting yourself, this can transfer to the kids as well.
Keep in mind that autistic kids may also ask questions about themselves if they notice they are different and you’ll need to be prepared for this situation as well.
Don’t Get Upset Over Honest Questions
Children don’t often think of what is politically correct or how to word things in a non-offensive manner. If a child asks you something that seems offensive to you, keep in mind that they probably aren’t trying to be mean.
They might say something like “Why is Johnny so weird?” or “Why does Sue hit her head on the wall sometimes?” or “Why is Will such a cry baby?”
While these things don’t sound very nice, you can help them understand the student by answering these questions without being defensive.
Focus on the Positives
When you’re having a conversation with a typical kid about autism, focus on what the autistic child can do instead of focusing on the things they might not be able to do.
Give suggestions on how to include the autistic child and ask them to give their own suggestions as well.
You should also let children know that even though a child might be non-verbal, they understand when they are talking to them. Autism doesn’t affect the child’s ability to listen and understand speech even if they are non-verbal.
Let them know that autistic children have other ways to communicate besides speaking and they should pay attention to their cues.
Take Kids to Local Autism Events
There are more events taking place as people work to bring more awareness and taking kids to these events is a great learning experience. Many times, these events will have booths that will help children get a better understanding of autism and how they can relate to children and adults that have autism.
When you’re explaining things to children, analogies are very helpful. Since kids love technology and find it easy to understand, you can use analogies that relate to computers and other common topics to show how autism affects children.
Talk about how autism is like having different wiring or coding and that it makes a big difference in how the child sees and interacts with the world. And just because they are different doesn’t mean they are wrong.
Read Books & Watch Movies with Autistic Characters
Children love books and movies and reading books or watching movies can make it easier to drive a point home. When children see characters portrayed in books and movies, these characters make it easier to see that autism isn’t something to be afraid of but is something to understand.
There are many resources these days that are available for you to go through with your child, your classroom or even to help yourself understand autism better. You can look online or at your local library to easily access these resources.
How to Explain Autism to a Child – Now You Know
Now you know how to explain autism to a child. Whether you’re the parent of an autistic child, a teacher working with autistic children or a parent in general, it’s helpful to know how to talk to your children about autism.
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