Autism is a truly perplexing disorder with extremes at both ends. How can we begin to understand something that is so foreign to us? We can start by opening our minds to the endless possibilities this group possesses. We can also open our hearts to understand that while they may be different in some ways, they still have the same basic needs that we all desire; love, understanding, belonging, and purpose.
Let’s begin with some basic facts about autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Professionals call ASD a spectrum disorder due to the wide variance in the type and severity of symptoms people experience. ASD also occurs in all ethnic, racial, and socio-economic groups. I love the saying by Dr. Stephen Shore, “If you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism.” This goes to show that every person with autism is a unique individual and the characteristics or symptoms you see in one person might be completely absent or heightened in another. The CDC estimates that the incidence rate of autism is 1 in 54. This is a slight increase over the previous rate of 1 in 59.
Some individuals with autism have stated that their brains are “wired differently”. This “wiring” is not faulty as some might believe, simply different. We have the opportunity to enter their world and see things from their perspective if we will only be willing to see things differently.
So how can you enter this world of autism you ask? You can follow the person’s lead and eliminate your expectations of how they should act or react. See them through a lens of understanding and acceptance just as you want others to see you. Love and acknowledge them for who they are and not who you expect them to be.