As Autism Acceptance and Awareness Month draws to a close, BlueSprig Pediatrics spoke with three of their employees, Alicia, Natalie and Sara who all have kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to find out what they wanted their friends and family members to know about their child with autism.
These moms created a list of eight key things they wanted their family and friends to know about their child with autism.
Accept our children as they are. The common theme among these three moms is that they wanted their friends and family to accept their children just as they are and to realize that no two children with autism are the same. The reason we refer to it as an autistic spectrum is because everyone is different, and not all children engage in what you might consider ‘classic’ autistic behavior. For example, while many people think children with autism do not like to engage in social interactions, they often want to be social, they just lack the skills needed to do so.
Understand that attempts to connect with others may look different. They may not greet you with a traditional “hello,” but instead instantly start talking to you about a particular topic the two of you have in common. They aren’t being rude; that is just their way of making a meaningful connection with you.
Especially for the older kids, they just want to feel part of this world like everyone else. They want to feel a sense of belonging and be an active part of the conversation, event, or whatever else is happening in the world around them. “My son just wants to be a cool, 24-year-old guy who wants to show off his OU hat, his new shoes or tell you he saw something down the road. He wants to feel a part of the world, the conversation and the event, and not just an accessory to his parents. He’s his own person!” said Alicia.
Our kids know when people are talking about them. Do not assume that children with autism are not aware when others are talking about them. Instead, show them the same courtesy we show everyone else and try to include them in conversation. Speak with them about topics they enjoy or things you may have in common.
As parents, we can get overwhelmed easily. We are often overwhelmed by the medical and school challenges we face daily. Having a child with autism or, for that matter, any other type of special need, can be harrowing. “A challenge that I encountered in the earlier stages was finding the resources and having the support system in place,” said Natalie. Sometimes parents of children with ASD just want a friend we can talk to and a shoulder to lean on for support. It is important to surround us as parents with a support network, so we know we are not alone.
And to add to #5, sometimes our struggles are invisible. “My daughter is happy. She can be patient, sensitive, and understanding. It can seem on the outside that we don’t face challenges. What people don’t see is all the work that goes into the balance, fighting for her needs, helping her navigate the world, struggling to find an environment that will accept her, troubleshooting supports, working through the hard days where we do have to stay home, get called home from work, attending to doctor’s appointments, therapies, evaluations, IEP meetings, and tutors. Sometimes our struggles are visible, and sometimes it seems like we’re doing fine. We need our friends to be compassionate even when things seem like they’re smooth sailing, because there is so much going on under the surface on a daily basis,” said Sara.
We plan for small things. Leaving the house can be an event that requires planning. We think about how many people will be in attendance and if there will be designated sensory friendly spaces available in case of over-stimulation. As a parent it is important to ensure our children have the appropriate resources such as tablets, headphones, chewies, blankets and other sensory activities readily available to regulate more effectively.
We will miss things…but please don’t take it personal. We are aware of how our children process their surroundings, and sometimes we won’t be able to make that birthday party or family function, even when we want to, because we know our child’s limits. Some environments are not the best fit for our children and may cause sensory overload. That’s just part of our reality.
We would love to hear your list. Feel free to comment below for other tips you wish friends knew about your child with Autism. The more we can share and open up this conversation in our community, the quicker we will get to a higher level of Autism acceptance and awareness.
About our moms: Alicia is a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst and the center director at BlueSprig Pediatrics in Norman, Oklahoma. Sara is the center director at BlueSprig in the Tulsa Oklahoma center and Natalie is the center director at the BlueSprig clinic in Acworth. GA.
About BlueSprig Pediatrics
BlueSprig, founded in 2017, is a leading provider of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy services to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). BlueSprig is committed to providing compassionate, individualized, and evidence-based behavior analysis treatment. Headquartered in Houston, TX, BlueSprig is a nationwide provider in ABA Therapy with 140+ locations. For additional information about BlueSprig or to receive updates, visit www.bluesprigautism.com.