There are plenty of myths and preconceived ideas about kids on the Autism Spectrum, particularly when it comes to social relationships.
Myth #1: Autistic kids don’t need friends because they aren’t aware of others like most kids are.
Truth: Autistic kids need friends just as much as your neurotypical kids do; more so, even. Spectrum kids are very aware of their own limitations in social situations, which makes them want even more to be accepted just like any other child does.
They are aware of others, even when their sensory issues or the fact that they are nonverbal makes it difficult for you to tell that. In fact, some kids are SO aware of how others present themselves that they are moved to compassionate acts that you simply cannot stop.
My son is a good example of this. We serve as a family downtown with a local homeless street ministry. Our son can spot someone in need, someone ill, or hurting and will go straight over to them and find out what he can do for them. As soon as he knows their needs, he’s gone in a flash, to track down what ever it is they are in need of, from Tylenol to a new sleeping bag or a fresh plate of food because they spilled theirs. He loves people and loves to help out. We’d have to tie him to the truck to keep him from it when we’re down there.
Myth #2: Autistic kids don’t experience emotions like neurotypical kids do. They don’t feel or express love, anger, sadness.
Truth: Autistic kids are the very opposite of this! They feel EVERYTHING. They experience everything, every situation, in a much deeper, more personal way than we do. That’s why they struggle to process the world around them; they simply can’t turn it OFF or filter things OUT like most of us can.
Myth #3: Autistic kids can’t play sports or do things in large groups because they can’t handle it.
Truth: Yes they can, in one form or another. The reason they call Autism a spectrum disorder is because there are so many different degrees of effect. Some profoundly affected kids may not be able to handle chaos and noise but would be fine in a large group of well behaved, more quiet students on something like a tour.
Others may do just fine within the bounds of a group activity if they know where their boundaries are. (My son in particular is a rule keeper. If he knows the boundaries and the rules, he will follow them.)
Myth #4: Autistic kids don’t play.
Truth: Of course they do! They may just play differently. Younger children enjoy sensory play activities. Often, when they are spinning, rolling, jumping, swinging, etc. they are able to interact with one another much easier than when they aren’t receiving that sensory input at the same time.
Older youth like to use their strengths, so if you are able to find a club for your child’s passions (Chess, Minecraft, horses, rocketry, underwater basket weaving, whatever it is!) he will be blissfully happy to find others who ‘speak his language’ and do the things he loves to do.
How does your child do in social situations?
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