Day #17 of our #AsImChallenge is about checking in and asking.
Successful autism inclusion is an ongoing and community-wide effort. AsIAm is challenging you today to begin building an autism-friendly community.
The condition may be well known but it is still not widely understood. Confusion and a lack of awareness of its basic traits, such as communication difficulties and problems with motor skills, has led to myths and misconceptions about individuals on the spectrum. These are often negative and remain very real barriers for autistic people and their families when reaching out and taking part in society. As a consequence, many will feel increasingly isolated within their own communities and less inclined to challenge stereotypes about their condition.
By doing something as small as checking in and asking how someone who know is autistic is doing you are making the first steps in an important journey for autism awareness and inclusion. From there, the approaches are many. Check out our top tips on what you can do below.
The best way to learn about autism is from the people who are autistic. If you know someone in your class, college or workplace, take the time to be friendly and say hi to them. Many autistic people will appreciate your friendliness and trying to include them in outings. When doing so, it’s good to be aware of a few things;
- Use clear, plain language when talking an autistic person.
- Autistic people are literal thinkers and may not always get slang, sarcasm or jokes. Explain these if they don’t understand but be careful not to appear condescending.
- Be specific when inviting them out and explaining plans. The more detail you can give, down to the location, time, and who else will be going, the better.
- Ask the person where they want to go and give them choices. Get a feel for what they like and give them better options to pick from.
Predictability and routine are crucial for many autistic people to function on a daily basis. If a person on the spectrum has both, they are able to plan their interactions and develop a regular order to interactions. A disruption in either can cause major anxiety and sometimes totally inhibit them from performing basic tasks. Similarly, if a person is unable to stim or feels self-conscious about it, they may become so distressed that it risks a meltdown.
No one autistic person is the same as another on the spectrum. Each individual has their own needs and will differ on what kind of help they may require. Being aware of this and taking steps to assist autistic people in need is being an ally in practice. Some of what you can do may be;
- Calmly ask the person if they would like any help. Do not take it personally if they refuse.
- Give them space if they are stimming or experiencing a meltdown. Move people along and try to detract attention from the person.
- Call out harassment when you see it and support the person in distress. Report it to the authorities if serious.
- Make staff or the right personnel aware of an autistic person if you see them in distress if you are unsure of what to do.
GET INVOLVED WITH A LOCAL SUPPORT GROUP
Joining or volunteering with an organisation for autism is an excellent way of learning about the condition. You don’t need to be autistic or have a direct connection to the condition to sign up. It’s where you can build connections with other people and work towards a common cause. Support groups are also great opportunities for people to develop campaigns for autism awareness within their own communities and deliver practical changes.