Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neurological condition that affects the way an individual interacts with their environment and experiences the world around them. While there is no “cure” for ASD—and having a different neurotype is in no way cause for a “cure”—early intervention and support can be beneficial to those living with the condition. As such, working with autistic children through an in-depth curriculum of special education can be an incredibly rewarding, albeit challenging, experience.
Creating Accurate Autistic Representation
One of the most important steps in helping autistic children feel included and represented in society is to provide them with positive examples of autistic characters in mainstream media. This can be done in several ways, such as having characters on TV shows and movies that are explicitly identified as autistic, or ones that display traits common to autism. It’s important that these characters are depicted as multi-dimensional and as having strengths as well as challenges. They should also be presented in a positive light and given stories that demonstrate their value and worth.
Fortunately, there are a number of shows and movies that are taking steps to normalize autism and create positive representations of autistic characters. For example, Sesame Street recently launched an autism acceptance campaign, debuting an autistic muppet, Julia. Meanwhile, Mattel created their own autistic character, Bruno Thomas and Friends, who is accepted and celebrated by his friends. These examples demonstrate that it is possible to create positive role models for autistic people in mainstream media, which can have a profound impact on how autistic children feel about themselves.
Understanding and Normalizing Neurodiversity
In addition to representation, it is also important to work to understand the neurodivergent brain. While there is still much to learn about the condition, there is a growing body of research that can help to shed light on how an autistic individual experiences the world. This knowledge can be used to better understand the behaviors and needs of autistic children, and to provide interventions and support tailored to their individual needs.
It is also essential to work towards normalizing neurodiversity. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as educating the public about autism, advocating for acceptance and inclusion, and challenging ableist attitudes. By normalizing neurodiversity, we can create a world where autistic children are accepted and supported, rather than stigmatized and othered. It’s important to listen to the voices of autistic people and engage in meaningful conversations with them about their experiences. This can help to create a greater understanding of autism and create opportunities for autistic people to share their stories and perspectives. This can also help to reduce the stigma around autism, which is essential in creating an inclusive society.
Offering Lifelong Skills and Supports
As a professional working with autistic children, it is essential to keep in mind that these children will eventually become autistic adults. While this may be an exciting time for many families, it can also be a time of uncertainty and concern. It is important to remember that autistic adults often have limited access to the supports and accommodations they need to thrive.
The lack of access to adequate supports and accommodations can be especially difficult for autistic adults. Without appropriate resources, they may struggle to maintain employment, find suitable housing, and access necessary medical care. These challenges can be overwhelming and take a toll on their mental and physical health.
Overall, working with autistic children can be an incredibly rewarding experience. By taking steps towards representing and understanding the neurodivergent brain, and normalizing neurodiversity, we can create an inclusive and accepting society that values and celebrates the unique gifts and talents of autistic individuals.