"He experiences the world differently than other kids," this mother said as she sat across from me one morning, trying to relay the challenges her son has faced at other schools. "I'm just worried that no-one will understand him and he will be labelled with having a behaviour problem. I want them to see what I see; to be patient enough to experience the world through his lens." While the specifics of this conversation were unique to this mom, the concerns about her son fitting into the school system were not.
According to Autism Society, about 1% of the world population has autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The prevalence in the United States has been reported at one in 68 births and the UK reports that 1% of the adult population has ASD. The Center for Disease Control defines ASD as a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioural challenges. People with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people.
Here are some things that people with ASD want you to know:
1. They don't often recognise common social cues, body language or facial expressions.
2. They are concrete thinkers and interpret things literally.
3. Autism is commonly referred to as a spectrum. Cases vary widely and knowing one particular person with autism does not mean another person's diagnosis is the same.
4. People with autism can and do feel affection and emotion; some more than others. Autism doesn't make an individual unable to feel the emotions others feel, it just makes them communicate emotion and perceive expressions in different ways.
5. People with autism are smart and talented - and sometimes they just need others to help them discover it.
6. Lack of eye contact does not mean lack of attention. Making and keeping eye contact is a struggle and the amount of eye contact is not a good indication of whether or not they are paying attention.
7. Having autism does not limit one's abilities; it just changes that person's thought process and how he or she perceive things.
8. People with autism are visually oriented and often learn best by being shown rather than told.
9. People with autism thrive on routines and plans.
10. One third of the people with autism are non-verbal, but that does not mean they don't know how to communicate. Many people who are non-verbal are highly intelligent.
11. The world of work can be a challenge as people with autism sometimes have difficulty finding and maintaining a job.
12. Probably one of the most important things people want others to know is that autism is not a definition of who they are.
Sara Lindburg has a B.S. in Exercise Science and an M.Ed. in Counselling. A 41-year-old wife, mother, and full-time secondary school counsellor, she combines 20-plus years' experience in the fitness and counselling fields and she has found her passion in inspiring other women to be the best version of themselves on her Facebook page, FitMom. Her inspiration for writing comes from her 6-year-old son, Cooper, and 8-year-old daughter, Hanna. Follow Sara on twitter.