The term autism is one that is widely recognized by people. However, it is also a term that is least understood despite people claiming that they know about autism.
The term autism (or autism spectrum disorder, ASD) as defined on Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.
Recently, I came across the book titled, Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism by Dr Barry M Prizant and he has stated that autism isn’t an illness. It’s a different way of being human.
We are all SPECIAL
I support my team members in their personal development and I am often being reminded that every individual is unique in their own way. For us to work cohesively as a team, we need to understand and accept each other as an individual first. The way they work, what matters to them and from there, we will be able to learn how to work with every single person, as a team.
That would also apply to how we work with children with special needs (or autism, cerebral palsy, adhd, etc).
If we look at every single child as a unique individual, we (as adults) would first need to understand the child and find ways to communicate with them. As an adult, it means that we bear the responsibility to take the first step (and subsequent steps) to reach out to the child. To help him / her to understand the world around them, guide them appropriately and be their pillar – to advocate, protect and communicate, until they have learned how to.
Seek First to Understand, Then To Be Understood
In Dr Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Habit #5 is Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood. That is our primary role as adults because we have the cognitive ability level that a child does not have, yet.
We know that children (or a person) with autism will face some form of social, communication and / or behavioral challenges. Therefore, we know that a person with autism will behave differently, communicate differently and be different. Getting to know a person takes time and effort, a person with autism is no exception.
Once we understand a person, we then know what he / she is communicating (or trying to communicate, if he / she has not acquired the skill), expressing (or trying to express, if he / she has not acquired their emotion regulation skill) and experiencing (or trying to comprehend what is going around him / her if he / she has not acquired adaptability skill).
I am NOT an expert
We can never be.
Autism is still a widely searched topic today. A quick keyword search shows an average searched results of 178,640 per month from Jaaxy.com. There are a lot of researches and resources available to define, identify, support and to “treat” (a term that I disliked using, as autism is not an illness).
But, I do want to advocate.
As long as we honor each person, child or adult, healthy or otherwise, and accord them with utmost respect that you can give to a person, nothing is beyond us.
So, what is Autism?
It is just a term, a term coined by doctors (and researchers and clinicians) that has be redefined over the years, and still can be redefined in the future. (Read more about it here.)
It is currently being defined as a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.
It does not define what we can do about it.
We can choose what we want to do about it.