Editor’s Note: The suggestions below come to us from Krista Mason, the mother of a child who has autism. She is the founder of Benjamin’s Hope, an organization designed to address the multifaceted needs of adult individuals and families affected by autism and other intellectual and developmental differences
Some general tips:
- A person with autism is first of all a real person — just like you are. Treat the person the way you would like to be treated.
- Remember that even though a person might not be able to speak, he or she can hear. Do not talk about them as if they’re not in the room.
- Parents of people with autism need support and encouragement. They are trying to do their best. The most helpful expression communicates, “You are doing a great job. This is not easy, and we see that. How can we be helpful?”
Considerations when interacting with people with autism
- Address the person in an age-appropriate way. For example, don’t “baby talk” to a teenager.
- Do not speak overly slowly or loudly.
- Try not to frame everything in a question. If a person is non- verbal or minimally verbal, framing everything in a question can be frustrating.
- Talk to the person about things that interest them. If you do not know what interests the person, ask the parents. They know.
Be aware that sometimes people with autism make noises that are unusual. Generally, they can’t help it. It is best to just carry on without drawing attention. Also, people with autism often have “self-stimulatory” behaviors such as: jumping, flapping, and particular eye movements. These movements are a part of autism, and you show kindness when you do not make a big deal about them.
It’s ok to ask a friend about his or her disability, but it’s also okay for a friend to not want to talk about it. It should be the person’s choice.