Some might describe children with autism as being easily distracted, obsessive and compulsive. What if instead, they were described as easily fascinated, tenacious and thorough? Our daughter Ava is taking karate lessons and is very thorough in demonstrating all of the moves she has learned to date. She is not obsessed, just focused on something new and proud to show off her acquired skills. This can even apply to your own children or grandchildren, whether or not they have autism. For example, our neuro-typical son Jake is extremely inquisitive, but others might view him as nosy with all of his follow-up questions. Sometimes it can just be a matter of perspective on how we interpret our child’s personality traits on whether or not it is a positive or negative characteristic. Below are more examples from educator and author Jack Taulbee from “The Special Needs Child Series” on adjectives we might consider using to reframe our thinking on how we view our children and others:
Charismatic Vs. Emotional
Convincing Vs. Controlling
Determined Vs. Obstinate
Confident Vs. Opinionated
Energetic Vs. Hyperactive
Selective Vs. Isolated
Innocent Vs. Immature
Powerfully Vivid Vs. Dramatic
Creative Vs. Disorganized
Independent Vs. Oppositional
With this new mindset, we can hopefully develop a better understanding for those that are different from us and display more acts of loving-kindness or chesed. Try encouraging creativity in your child by letting them choose their own outfit for the day, even if they don’t match. Take a photo of them and applaud their efforts. Or try inviting your child’s friend and their autistic sibling over for a play date and set up a fun activity they might all enjoy doing together. Take photos and print out copies so they can post at home.
Appreciating differences is something we should encourage in all our children by being mindful of labels we might be attaching to them and others. Showing love and compassion to those that are different from us is one of the highest forms of kindness.
Advocacy For Autism hosts monthly support group meetings at Temple Beth Israel in Pomona. The next meeting is on Monday, February 6 from 7-8:30 p.m. Mr. Chris Grant, an Emergency Management Specialist, will lead a free training to provide families with the basic knowledge needed to be prepared for, and respond to, emergencies and disasters at home, in the workplace and anywhere else there may be an emergency. _
Nicole Aptekar is a parent, advocate and founder of Advocacy For Autism. She is active in several non-profit organizations focused on autism, including Autism Society of Inland Empire. She is also active in her temple community, Temple Beth Israel Pomona, where she serves on the Board of Trustees. Nicole, her husband, Jeff, and their triplets live in Chino Hills, Calif. For a calendar of upcoming meetings and workshops, please visit www.advocacyforautism.com.