I have been working with children with autism for many years now and they are such a big part of my life. Not sure what autism is? Click on this link to learn about autism--> What is autism? This blog post is written in blue in honor of April, the National Autism Awareness Month :)
Here are some things I have learned from working with my amazing kiddos who are on the Autism Spectrum.
1- Patience: Although I'm still struggling with this one, I believe that this is the most important thing I have learned from working with my kiddos on the spectrum. You need to have a lot of patience to work with these children but it's worth it. Every day I go to work with these kiddos, I'm practicing my patience and this has helped me at home with my own son. Something that I can teach a neuro-typical child in 1 minute, may take 3 weeks for my kiddos with autism to learn, but I do not give up!
2- Paying attention to my own social skills: I worked with many kiddos with autism who had social-pragmatic disorders this past year. As a speech-language pathologist, I got to work on social skills including body orientation, eye contact, interrupting, staying on topic, tone of voice, vocal volume, etc. Now I'm super aware of these social-pragmatic skills when I'm talking to other people. I'm also trying to teach my toddler basic rules of conversation and nonverbal cues such as making eye contact when someone is talking to him. We'll see how that goes :)
3- Honesty: Children with autism are the most honest people I have ever seen. Children are typically pretty honest, but children with autism take honestly to a whole new level. They'll tell you exactly how something is! Sometimes they can be brutally honest but at least you know there is not an ounce of fake in them. In a world where people are constantly hiding their thoughts and feelings, it's sometimes nice to be around children who don't even think about doing that. I've heard very honest things such as "Ms. Sanaz, I love your eyes" or "I didn't have any fun with you today Miss. Sanaz." Their comments always make my day regardless.
4- Unconditional love: After seeing so many parents love their children with autism regardless of the constant tantrums, screaming, and hitting, I believe that I have seen true unconditional love. I truly admire these parents! It is not easy being a parent to a child with autism (or multiple children with autism), but these parents know how to love their children under all circumstances and that is beautiful. Sometimes I just want to give these parents a hug and thank them for being such amazing parents.
5- Not judging other parents/people: Prior to understanding children with autism and their meltdowns and tantrums or sensory issues, I used to get annoyed with parents whose kids had random meltdown in grocery stores or at the airport and the parents did nothing about it. Now I really try to judge less and understand more. I understand that when these meltdowns happen, they happen for a reason, and sometimes the parents can't do much to calm their kids down. This does not mean that every child who has tantrums/meltdowns has autism, but when I see such things in public, I think to myself that there is a chance that this child may have autism or another disorder, and I do not want to be the judgmental person who gives the parents who are already traumatized a hard time.
I have learned these and so much more from my amazing kiddos on the spectrum, but these 5 really stood out to me. Have you ever met anyone with autism? What have you learned from them? Tweet/FB/comment about your experience.
Have a good weekend all, and next time you see a child with a meltdown in public try to judge less :)