Many of us know and love a person who has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Sometimes there’s a lot that we don’t understand, but we can all agree that we love them and want to be the best sister, brother, cousin, or friend to them. Here are just a few tips for loving and supporting your loved one who happens to have ASD.
Realize that they’re a person (first) who just happens to have autism.
People with ASD have emotions, wants, needs, and favorite things. They are people, first, who HAPPEN to have autism. So, treat them well and get their opinion instead of making decisions for them. Find out how they'd like to be referred to (or described). They may prefer that you say things like “My cousin who has ASD” instead of saying “My autistic cousin”. However, you won't know until you ask them, so always ask first.
Be creative with communication.
Sometimes, talking (verbal communication) may not be the best way to communicate (it varies for each person). If you find that they have difficulty expressing themselves by talking, try using pictures or typing back and forth on a device. Facial expressions are another way to communicate as well. In addition, some individuals with ASD respond more accurately when given choices. For example, try giving them a choice between two fun activities that you can do together and let them pick, instead of just asking them what they want to do!
Be an advocate.
Learn as much as you can about THEM first. Learn things like what they like to do for fun, the things that annoy them, and their favorite snack. Also, learn as much as you can about ASD, including what some of the symptoms are, and ways to support them. If they are in situations where they need assistance, try to help. If they are having trouble communicating with someone who doesn’t understand ASD, try to assist them with communicating. Don’t EVER let ANYONE tease or bully them. And don’t assume that they can’t communicate or complete tasks for themselves because they have ASD.
Let them be themselves.
There may be things that they like to do that are different from what you enjoy. That’s okay! Don’t try to change them! If something that they enjoy doing looks different from the way you do it (ex: how they play games, how they enjoy watching videos) , allow them to be themselves. You may want to try or their way! It might, actually, be a lot more fun!
Show them tons of love.
Always be loving and patient. Be open to learning new ways of communicating. Be accepting to any differences and be respectful to their personal boundaries. Remember that they MAY need assistance in some areas, but we all have areas that we need assistance in. We should never just assume that they need you to speak for them or do things for them. Do you best to be a good sister, brother, cousin, or friend and always be an advocate!