How to Interact with a child with Autism
Interacting with an autistic child has its dos and don’ts. First, you have to put it into consideration that autistic children are naturally prone to avoid communication. Well, that is less mild cases. In more severe cases of Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), these children may prevent all forms of social interaction whatsoever. In this post, you are going to learn how to interact with a child that has Autism.
Irrespective of the fact that it is their natural disposition, it is still unhealthy for them. More than anyone else, these children need all the warmth the advice they can get. That should not surprise you; they are very prone to other mental issues, too, you know.
However, the underlying condition needed for you to render help to someone else optimally is interaction.
In most cases, parents of children with autism celebrate occasions where their child talks or makes conscious attempts at social interactions. So it’s a big deal. It is a sign of an improvement. Therefore, whether you are a parent, sibling, or teacher of an autistic child, you need to have an in depth understanding of how to communicate with these children. What are the things you should do? What are the things you should not do? We will be exploring these in the subsequent paragraph. Do read till the end.
How to interact with an Autistic child
1. Understand the child you want to interact with
This is the first step to successful interaction with an autistic child. You need to study the child to see things that interest them. Does the child have any unique quirks? Do they have something that irritates them? What subject matter can they talk about endlessly? What are some of the socially negative behaviors they have due to their autism? Can you identify when the child is just throwing a tantrum? You know, they may be autistic, but they are still children at heart? What specific challenges could this child have in the environment? Does the child have a favorite food or not? What colors or TV shows does the child enjoy? Are they perhaps the nerdy type? You should invest time in finding out these things. The answers make your subsequent interaction with the child very easy.
NOTE – You should note that asking for answers to all of these may be futile in most cases. So don’t ask directly. You need to observe.
2. Make a schedule
Communication (verbal) is very important. As a result of studying the child in question, you already have a vague idea of when they are most relaxed and vulnerable to interactions. Based on this knowledge, you could fix a schedule for talking to them.
However, it would be best if you never forgot to make this scheduling flexible enough to fit into situations that may arise.
As a bonus, autistic children are known to be exceptionally programmed.
They often carve out a routine for themselves based on the dictates of circumstance and stick to it. So if you, by chance, can detect this routine and fit your talk time perfectly, you may just have made a friend with that autistic child.
3. Get their attention
There is a usual disinterest that autistic children show towards communication and any other form of social interaction. You could get past this disinterest by pure attempts. However, that may not work in some cases. In situations where this doesn’t work, you could try the following.
Do something flashy enough to get their attention. It could be as simple as making a weird noise or screaming something that tickles their fancy.
Establish eye to eye contact with them; when this is established, you should start your conversation. They may look away if you wait till things get awkward
Make physical contact with them. However, you should be careful. You have to be sure that you have earned their trust before attempting this. If you try this at the first attempt to establish a connection with them, it may backfire fire, and things will go awry real fast. There is also the possibility that it may work on the first meeting; however, why take chances?
Ask the autistic child a question and ask them to repeat what you have said. This works well, especially if the question is related to something they take great interest in.
4. Start on the good ground
When you have successfully gained the attention of the autistic child, you should be careful to start from places where they are interested. As autistic children, they are bound to have things/topics/fields obsessed with. That is it! That is your leverage.
A successful connection is dependent on how well you use this to build the trust they have for you and your judgment of their person. Essentially, it is an indicator that you are worth talking to. Let your words show them that you share the same interests with them.
Let it show that you understand them. You should be able to communicate with them emotionally, starting from what they like. You could even draw analogies between whatever cogent thing you want to talk about and what interests them. The goal is to connect with them.
5. Watch the body language and the non-verbal signs
Autistic children can be very observant. You should communicate with your body language and signs as much as you do with your voice. Let your movements and actions convey the same emotions you are trying to pass across. When you are excited, show it! When you are happy, show it! Let your body do the talking.
In other cases, you should use non-verbal signs. Some autistic children find it too big a hassle to talk. You could learn in on one or two sign messages. It could be something unique to the child or something general. By the time you start to gain the child’s trust, it looks like some secret code between both of you. It makes it easier by the time this child opens up to talk.
6. You could try visual means (If taking fails)
In some cases, there is no method you try to make the child talk; they would not just budge. Do not be frustrated. You should attempt pictures, drawings, and videos. Some autistic children connect faster and better with art and photographs.
The DONT’S of interacting with an Autistic child
If you want to interact with a child that has autism, there are some things you should avoid doing at all costs. Doing these things will only fuel their introversion (this is a euphemistic way of expressing the aftermath of withdrawal). Therefore, read this part very carefully.
1. Don’t get creative in your expression
Sarcasm, hyperbole, ironies, and oxymoron, all of those are part of normal human expression. There is no doubt about that. However, you should avoid using this whenever you communicate with an autistic person. Make sure you are straight to the point.
Autistic children often attach multiple interpretations to statements that are not clear. These interpretations – just like any average person – are based on certain preconceptions. You stand a high chance of sounding very confusing and being misunderstood.
Clarity is the only way; keep whatever you want to say as crystal clear as possible. No funny games!
If, by chance, you accidentally do some stunts with words and the child asks you to explain, be careful. You must make sure not to laugh at the child for taking the words as literal as they came out.
Instead, make sure your explanations are straightforward enough to erase any doubts you may have previously created. This is very important.
2. Do not approach them with pity
If there is anything on the “I hate it list” of autistic children. It was a pity party. They do not like to be viewed as some endangered species of kids that need special care and pity. They would rather just be left alone. So in whatever you do, you must watch your voice, tone and mannerism, and body language. You must make sure they don’t give an impression of pity. It is a big turn off for autistic children.
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3. Don’t attempt to order them around
This can ruin your relationship with them for good. In whatever you do, do not bark instructions out at an autistic child. It makes them detest or fear you. As a result of this, the mall moved further away into a recluse.
It would be more beneficial to try to make an autistic child see reason than attempting to go all out with the strictness card.
In the same vein, you should not pass too many instructions to the child at a time. Please keep it one at a time. If you assign them to do tasks, spell them out individually and as clearly as possible. Do not cramp too many functions in a single expression.
Finally, if you give feedback on tasks to an autistic child, make sure the feedback is specific. Non-specific remarks could stop them from seeking your opinion.
An autistic child is just as promising as the other children. Autism is a challenge that you can help yourself overcome if you take the proper steps. If you need encouragement, you could look up to great individuals that suffered autism in their childhood as inspiration for your child. It takes just a period of dedicated caregiving. Hang on!