How can we raise awareness about autism within our own family? I see this as part of a larger goal I have as a parent—to teach my kids to be tolerant and curious about others and not make assumptions about other people’s behavior.
All of us can be quick to judge another person’s actions harshly. My sons have sometimes reported that a child in their class seems unfriendly, acts like they don’t care, or says things that don’t quite fit the conversation. These behaviors can all be hallmarks of autism, which is in many ways an invisible disability. We can see that the person’s behavior is unexpected, but we don’t know why.
In these types of situations, I encourage my kids to be compassionate and curious and put aside their judgement. Instead of making assumptions about someone else, I suggest that they give that person the benefit of the doubt and get to know him or her. The book Since We’re Friends: An Autism Picture Book is a good resource for getting the conversation about autism and friendship started with kids.
I’m aware that one the students in my son’s class is on the autism spectrum, although my son doesn’t know of his diagnosis. My son and his friends have been connecting with this boy because he is a good editor and they like creative writing but aren’t skilled at editing. This boy has helped them out with editing projects, and now they’re trying to pull him into some of their sports activities. I’m so glad that instead of seeing this classmate as odd or awkward, they are appreciating his strengths and developing a friendship.