In this blog, I’m continuing to debunk myths about autism.
Myth #12: They’ll all loners
I have known many children on the autism spectrum who want to have friends. They desire to be around their peers, but they lack the social skills that will enable some peers to accept them.
When they get rejected, they get hurt. They want to have friends, but need to learn how to do that. It’s not their desire be loners.
Hopefully, typical children are learning to be more accepting of all different types of children. I know an eight-year-old girl (going on sixteen) who has a friend with autism at her school. She tells me that she has to tell other peers to give “Johnny” a chance. “He’s nice, but takes a little more time to get to know.” That child is my poster child for what I hope is becoming the norm for young children these days. The more accepting typical children are, the easier it will be for a child with autism to slowly learn how to become part of a group, and not a loner.
Myth #13: All children with autism should be in a special class
If a child has no issues with learning, but has a high functioning autism diagnosis, there is no reason to simply stick that child into a special class because of the word autism.
I believe a high functioning child should have a chance to be mainstreamed. I do not necessary believe in simply doing it the other way because of an autism diagnosis. That “other way” would be to stick any child with autism into a special day class and then see if they can, eventually, attend a typical class or two. See if they can eventually be mainstreamed.
If a high functioning young child, a kindergartener for example, has an aide and is given the chance from the very beginning to be included in a typical classroom, that situation and that environment is so much better for that child, as well as for that class.
As I stated above, I believe peers are becomes more accepting of “differences” in all of their peers. If a child with high functioning autism and no learning issues begins in a class at a very young age, and “grows up” with his/her peers, wouldn’t that situation encourage even more accepting of the individual on the spectrum? And, be the most appropriate learning situation for that individual with autism?
Myth #14: Your child will never hug you
My husband freaked out after reading his very first list of “traits of an individual with autism.” This was before we had even taken our baby for an evaluation.
It couldn’t have been further from the truth.
My child, for example, loves to hug and be hugged. I can easily hug my child, and receive a warm hug in return.
And, “being hugged” is something that children with autism will sometime purposely do as a need for a sensory input. My child even went through a phase when he was seeking “Mom hugs” twenty times a day. He was doing it for the sensory input, it was calming his body, making him feel more regulated.
Of course, I loved getting the hugs. But, after a few days I checked with his Floor Time supervisor. She suggested I track them, record exactly how many times a day my child was asking me for a hug. Twenty.
When we next meet with the supervisor, we began to incorporate other OT-related strategies that would replace the Mom Hug. The other strategies were more appropriate, even though I did miss all of the hugs.
Besides hugging possibility being a sensory-needed input, there are some individuals with autism who do not like to be hugged or even touched.
It feels dysregulating to them for whatever reason. The input does the opposite for them.
Still, in my experience, hugging or the lack of hugging is not a fast and true “rule” of the individual with autism.
Myth #15: Autistic individuals don’t look at you when you’re speaking to them, therefore they’re not listening to you
My child has disproved this one hundreds of times.
It is true that many individuals on the autism spectrum find it uncomfortable to look directly at the person who is speaking to them.
Still, you cannot assume that they are not listening to you.
Hopefully, with a situation like teacher-student, for example, the parent can communicate ahead of time to the teacher, “My son isn’t comfortable looking directly at the person speaking to them, but he is listening.” That precious eye contact shouldn’t be forced. It’s not a lack of respect, it’s a sensory input that makes that one child uncomfortable. That teacher, or whomever, should at least attempt to work with the parent on that one issue. If the child gets his/her work done, and does respond to the teacher, then is eye contact really all that important?
In my next blog, I’ll wrap up debunking myths about autism.
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