A big problem I have run into when working with students with Autism, is how often people assume that there is really something wrong with the child.
Yes, the child may rock back and forth. Yes, the child may self-stim. Yes, the child may make seemingly random noises or screams.
But consider this; because of technology, some children who present this way have learned to communicate what they are thinking.
The biggest surprise? What they are thinking is complex, exactly appropriate for their age, and NORMAL!
Because of this, when I work with students with Autism, I assume that deep inside that rocking, self-stimulating, echolalia-ing child is a perfectly normal student who would like to be treated that way.
Because of this, when a child with Autism walks into my room, I greet them warmly. I make certain I’m not faking my joy at seeing them. I talk to them, a lot.
My theory, and it’s just a non-researched theory, from a mom and a special education teacher, is that it’s hard for them to process social communication, and if I want them to learn to do it, I have to flood them with MORE talking and social communication, not less.
Much in the same way as many psychologists cure patient phobias by flooding the patient with the things that scare them until they are no longer scared of those things, I think flooding the student with words makes them learn how to decipher meaning from those words.
A lot of classrooms for students with Autism, work on being very, very quiet. I really believe this is the wrong approach. I know students with Autism very often get overwhelmed by stimuli, but I think limiting the stimuli does not prepare them for the real world and only further works to isolate them.
Think about the child being NORMAL inside. How do you feel when you walk into a room and no one greets you? Do you feel welcome? No, probably not.
On the other hand, how do you feel when someone is interested in you and constantly works to communicate with you? Talks to you in a kind voice, helps you? That all feels really good and welcoming.
Talk to your child with Autism MORE. Flood them with language and the experience of you. Train their brains, by this, to filter and not flood them with overstimulation. It will take work and commitment, but I do believe, for many students, it is the key to them being able to learn to communicate the person they contain inside. The NORMAL person they contain inside….the one that WANTS to be here with us, participating like every other person….the one, that because of autism, can’t…..yet.