3 tips for working alongside autistic individuals
It's April, which means that #AutismAwarenessMonth is here again. Aspie Trainers are hoping to achieve more than #AutismAwareness, however. We believe that, with a little help from the community, autistic individuals can contribute to society. Consequently, here are three tips to help non-autistic people to support us to succeed.
1) Accept us for who we are
First and foremost, we believe that it's important to see autism as a different way of experiencing the world, as opposed to a series of deficits mixed with a few unusual talents. One American charity (no prizes for guessing who) use(d) scare-tactics in order to generate funding for a cure for autism, but it doesn't represent the real autism experts - self-advocates like ourselves - who just want to be accepted and valued for ourselves. Dude I'm an Aspie's brilliant, satirical post illustrates the feelings of many of us on the spectrum. As Steve Silberman wrote last year, we are not failed versions of normal. We are able to open your world-view if you give us the chance; we see the world differently, and as such, see things you don't. If you accept and nurture us to develop our talents rather than suppress them with your social expectations, then it's you who will benefit.
2) Learn from our experiences
There's a cliché that's worth repeating here: when you've met one person with autism, then you've met one person with autism. Please remember that autism is a spectrum of heterogeneous conditions with common behavioural characteristics, which means in practise that we don't all have calendar memories, we're not all mathematical card-counting genii, and we're not all visual thinkers. Some of us are introverts, some of us extroverts; we are male/female/androgynous; we have many different interests; we have differing beliefs; and we have differing communication preferences... it's a spectrum for many reasons!
The key to helping us is to understand how we think so that you can communicate with us in a way which we can understand. Therefore, if you want to help us then it's important to listen to us, read our words, and watch our videos. Aspie Under Your Radar has compiled a list of blogs, written pre-dominantly by autistic people themselves, which can aid you to gain a better understanding of what it's like to be #actuallyautistic. Alternatively, if you prefer videos, then this one by SilentMiaow is well worth a watch:
If you feel that you don't understand what we're saying, then ask clear, concise questions in order to facilitate your learning.
Finally, you can contact Aspie Trainers to book some autism training from a first-person perspective.
3) Be mindful of our sensory differences
By now, the National Autistic Society's Too Much Information Campaign should be familiar to most people. Life as an autistic person can be literally traumatic, overloading, and debilitating as a consequence of our sensory differences. When interacting with someone on the spectrum, please be aware of this and take time to find out what will make it easier for them to communicate with you.