Every day I notice more and more the publicity and attention that Autism is receiving.
More people are interested in the disorder and what it is all about...
I find the general consensus is that people are baffled by it.
They don't understand it and cannot wrap their heads or hearts around it all.
I have been asked many times "If I am around an Autistic child, how should I talk to them?"
Or, "should I try to talk to them at all?"
It's a great question, and I don't have the definite answer, but this my my personal advice...
I know as a parent of an Autistic child the one thing I want more than anything for Kannon is for him to be accepted. For him to have friends someday and to be liked by his peers.
That being said, I love when people extend themselves to Kannon.
They obviously know something is "off" with him due to his lack of language and physical ticks, so the fact that they have a big enough heart to overlook that and reach out to him is fabulous.
I would recommend talking to the child as if you were talking to ANY child.
No dumbing it down, no change of tone or pace...
If the child doesn't respond, which they probably won't, then just act as if it were a normal occurrence...no big deal.
Tell them how much you like their smile, their shirt...etc.
Then move on with your day.
Bottom line, talk TO them....not AT them.
Whether they make eye contact or not, they are listening.
In fact these kids are more in tune to other peoples emotions and actions MORE than most normal children.
They are very sensitive and in tune, unfortunately their bodies don't allow them to give out the normal physical cues one would expect from a child reacting to communication or attention.
Also, the parent of the Autistic child will most likely intervene on their child's behalf before you can even expect a reaction from the child.
I have seen some parents act very defensive and abrupt to people, and I get it...it is a defense mechanism developed out of the lack of public knowledge of the disorder. Don't take it personally if you get this reaction...no biggie.
Sometimes depending on the level of acceptance on the parents behalf the parent will react in a quick manner. They may remove the child and walk away, or they may just smile and brush the interaction off as it it never happened. OR they may inform you of the child's "condition" and at that point you may choose to engage the parent in small conversation or not.
Some parents enjoy educating people on their child, and you can ALWAYS use me as an "in".
Tell them you have a friend whose child has Autism, how interesting it has been to follow her adventures with the disorder, etc...etc...you can even give them the link to this blog if they ever need a good smile :)
Whatever reaction you receive, it is wonderful that you even tried to extend yourself to a family who is dealing with Autism.
It is a very isolating disease at times, and bottom line is that we are ALL human.
We all want to be accepted, loved, and to feel emotions through the kindness of others spirits and generosity.