Stoney Point - April 2, 2015 - Awareness is the ability to perceive, to feel, or to be conscious of events, objects, thoughts, emotions, or sensory patterns. These are the very things those on the spectrum have difficulty with. Today the focus is on learning about Autism and gaining some awareness and understanding about the spectrum. I'm thrilled to see people Lighting It Up Blue and taking the time to explain to kids why people are Lighting It Up as information is key for understanding. For our family and others with loved ones on the spectrum, it doesn't stop after today; it's everyday, it's our life and acceptance and understanding by everyone, helps.
Things to Know About Autism and to Share with your Kids:
1) You can't tell that someone has autism by looking at them.
2) Everybody's brain works differently. Most kids with autism are good at some things but have to work harder at others.
3) Why are they doing that? You may notice a kid that's spinning around for a long time, flapping their arms, jumping a lot, or rocking. Repetitive actions are called stims and they're doing it because it feels good, or relaxing, or fun, or they are blocking out too much noise around them.
4) Everybody’s ‘weird.’ Stimming can seem weird at first if you're not used to it, but lots of people do things that are "weird." People who don't have autism or ADHD still do all kinds of little things like biting their nails, chewing their pencils, tapping their feet, or humming to themselves. It's okay that we're all different. Hand-flapping is pretty common in kids with autism. But not every kid who flaps his or her hands is autistic, and not every kid with autism flaps. Most of the time, hand-flapping just expresses excitement.
5) Some kids with autism can be "non-verbal" and use alternative forms of communication. They may have a book with pictures (PECS - picture exchange system) or a core board (sheet with pictures), electronic device or sign language.
6) Sometimes, kids with autism have trouble with facial expressions. Sometimes, kids with autism won't know how you're feeling just by looking at your face. Sometimes their facial expressions won't match how they're actually feeling. If you're not sure how someone is feeling, ask them!
7) What are you a fan of? Some people with autism, especially a kind of autism called Asperger Syndrome, are really interested in one particular thing. Really, really interested. Their favourite topic could be anything.
Everyone knows someone who seems "obsessed" with their favourite sports team, for example. You don't have to be autistic to be really into Twilight, Star Wars, or a favourite sports team. Sometimes kids with autism will forget to talk about other things besides their favourite topic. It's okay to say, "can we talk about something else now?"
8) Explain the rules. Kids with autism want to play, too! Sometimes, it's harder for them to ask if they can play with you, and they might not understand which people are playing what, and how to get in the game. Besides asking your friend if he wants to play, it can be helpful if you explain what the rules of the game are.
9) Lots of adults have autism, too. Autism isn't just a kid thing. Lots of grown-ups have autism. Just like kids with autism, some adults with autism need lots of help, and some don't.
10) Individuals with autism are individuals. Just like all the kids in your class are a little different, all people with autism are different.