Does your child have an autistic classmates? Maybe they’ve noticed that they do things a little bit differently or that they need special attention. I didn’t realize the need to educate children properly until I became the bonus mom to a child with autism. So, as our kiddos head back to school after the break, let’s help them be nicer to kiddos that are different from them. It’s important that children understand why they are getting special attention and what makes them different. But talking to your kids about autism isn’t easy. So I thought I would put together this guide to help you talk to your child about autism.
Explain What Autism Is
The most accessible place to start is by explaining what autism is. The hard part is putting it into terms that your child will understand and empathize with. To do this, explain that their classmate’s brain works differently. It’s not a bad thing, and it’s just different. Those differences mean that their classmates may be good at things your child may not be good at and not so good at other things. While this sounds like every other kid, their classmates may have difficulty making friends because people confuse them.
They Aren’t Boring. Routines Help Their Brains
Your child might notice that their autistic classmate always eats the same lunch or they always wear the same shirt. It’s not because they’re boring. It’s because doing the same thing, eating the same thing, and wearing the same thing make them feel safe and calm. They want to eat their lunch without worrying about whether they’ll like it or not or if there will be a strange flavor that they don’t know.
“They Always Talk About X” (Pokemon, Fortnite, Roblox, etc)
People with Autism often, though not always, have what is called a particular interest. That’s where they love learning everything there is to know about one thing. That thing might be Pokemon, or it might be airplanes. It’s different for every person. Elijah is particularly interested in dinosaurs right now. Then they want to talk about that thing they love with everyone because they find it exciting and think you will too. Because their brains are different, they don’t realize when they’re talking about it too much or that people are tired of hearing about it.
“They Keep Doing Weird Things With Their Hands or Their Voice”
One thing that helps people with autism is doing the same thing repeatedly. It helps them focus, they might do it when they’re excited, or they might do it when they’re upset about something. This isn’t something to make fun of or stare at. The best thing you can do is ignore it, unless they seem upset and an adult hasn’t noticed it yet, then tell a grown-up quietly.
If Your Class Moves to a New Classroom, They Might Have Some Trouble
Remember those autistic classmates like routine? Well, that is also true about which classroom they go to. It can be very upsetting for their brains if they are being moved to a new classroom. It would be like if you came home from school one day and found out we all moved down the street without telling you. You would come home and discover that no one is here and all your stuff is gone. Then when you find our new home everything is in the wrong place and you can’t find anything. This upset might lead your classmate to cry or yell or do things like waving their arms or hitting themselves. They need a little time to get used to the new classroom.
“They never talk. Are they stupid?”
No! Some of their autistic classmates don’t talk. Elijah doesn’t talk, but he tries saying some words here and there. Some only say a couple of words to people they really like. This doesn’t mean they’re stupid. Think of it like being shy. Some autistic people don’t like talking if they’re upset about something. Even if they don’t talk, they still like to have friends, and they still like to have people talk to them. So treat them like you would anyone else in your class. They might have a tablet that talks for them if they never talk. That isn’t weird. Just like it isn’t weird for someone who can’t hear to have hearing aids or someone who can’t walk to have a wheelchair.
Read These Books With Your Kids
These days there are also a ton of children’s books about autism. These might help put some of the things your child’s autistic classmates do into perspective. Here are just a few that I recommend.
- I See Things Differently: A First Look at Autism
- My Friend with Autism
- Different Like Me
- Uniquely Wired A Story About Autism and Its Gifts
- The Autism Acceptance Book: Being a Friend to Someone with Autism
- Ethan’s Story: My Life with Autism
Finally, don’t be afraid to tell your child you don’t know the answer to some questions they might have about their autistic classmate. More and more is being learned about Autism every day. So turn it into a learning opportunity for you both. If they have a question you don’t know the answer to, head to Google to find out what the answer is. The answer might end up being that we don’t know yet… and that’s okay.