Have you ever wondered what it is like to have Autism? As a neurotypical person or a person without a diagnosis, it is difficult to understand or identify how it feels to be a person with a diagnosis. While researchers continue to try to gain information on how it may feel to have Autism, there’s no easy way to gain that information. Further, it may be hard to simply ask those with Autism to describe what it’s like because they can’t quantify it. While as parents, educators, advocates ,and therapists we may never understand what it’s like for those diagnosed with Autism, there are some ways to ensure that we foster their input into their daily lives.
Are they able to thrive as they are? What are some ways to allow them to feel that they are a part of their day? Some ideas are giving them choices, providing them with schedules that they can give input to, picking an extracurricular activity, etc.
Are choices incorporated into their day? For instance, a nonvocal child may not be able to verbally say what they want for breakfast, but if you place two items in front of them they may direct a part of their body towards one option.
Are they allowed to be involved in their day/therapy/education? While a four year old may not be able to sit in an IEP meeting or understand the complexities of it, he can tell you what he likes and dislikes. If he’s super interested in trains, incorporate trains in whatever way is possible.
Are they listened to/heard? Even non-vocal people communicate with some type of noise/cue to say no. If they say no, are their requests honored when appropriate? Sometimes it may be impossible to honor the request but if they’re looking for space or a break, are they given that when possible?
In the typical hustle and bustle of the day this may be overwhelming or daunting. Currently though, there is an opportunity where many are staying at home often and routines are simplified. This may take time and practice, particularly during this time of change, but it could be the perfect time to take a step back and start new habits. A daily routine is essential, so it’s important to have those with Autism engaged in creating their schedule as much as possible. Eventually they will be in the driver’s seat of their daily life so let’s help them to make that transition as easy as possible. It may be scary to initially give them a small choice, and it may feel like they are starting out on the road for the first time, but looking back later and seeing them flourish will be worth it.