5 things I’ve learned from working with children with autism

Today, April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day. It’s important to bring awareness to autism everyday not just once a year. The most recent stats are that 1 in every 68 kids will be diagnosed with autism. The last 10 years of my life has been devoted to helping children with autism and their families. Each and every child I have worked with has taught me something new and special about myself, about autism and about life in general. Here are 5 things that I have learned from working with children with autism.

1. There is no “look” to autism.

Each and every child looks different like how everyone in our world looks different. So if you see a child freaking out on the street it is so important to not judge the adult and child. The adult is probably doing the best that they can in that moment to handle the situation. The child is not a poorly behaved child, but a child who could be frustrated and can’t properly communicate their needs, wants and feelings. Instead of judging offer a smile, a hand, or kind words.

2. Each thing learned is a huge victory.

When you have typical children you often take for granted many things children learn to do naturally. No teaching is required, no positive reinforcement is needed, no data taking done to teach a child to for example look at the person calling their name. Both my kids started to respond to their names at a young age, probably around 4 months. Imagine if your child never responded when you called them. Each and every thing I have taught a kid no matter how small it is, it’s a HUGE deal! Sitting, eating, responding to a name, learning simple commands like clapping, and waving are each a huge celebration.

3. Positive praise goes a long way.

I wrote about this a little while ago with Princess Peach and the Mitzvah tree at school. Acknowledging something someone has done for you or for themselves is very important. A “thank you”, “a great job” really puts value on a person and can change someones entire attitude.

4. Don’t give up!

Sometimes the way you think something should be done may not be the right or best way. Working with children with autism, I have learned you have to be creative to achieve a goal. You have to think outside of the box often and problem solve in order for the child to achieve a goal! When they do achieve that goal there is nothing better in the world. To see their smile is the best feeling in the world!

5. The parents of children with autism are true heroes.

When I was working with these kids, I worked with them from 9-3. At the end of the day they went home. No matter how stressful the day was I got some respite at the end of the day to relax, and do what I needed to do and go home to my quiet house. There is no break for these parents. They are on 100% of the time. They are their children’s biggest advocates and gathering information to help their child as best as possible. These parents usually have other kids, jobs, a house, a family and other issues to deal with. My hat goes off to each and every parent who parents a child with autism. What do you on a daily basis for your children is amazing and I admire all of you.

Do you work or live with someone who has autism? What would you add to my list?

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