Nurturing autistic children
Last updated on March 5, 2021 by Martin Silvertant
There is a VAST combination of possibilities on the autistic spectrum. This means every autistic child is neurologically unique—more so than non-autistic children who all share a very similar nervous system.The idiosyncratic brain: distortion of spontaneous connectivity patterns in autism spectrum disorder Have a look at the post below for more information on the greater neurological differences between autistic brains:
Because each autistic child is so unique, it makes it impossible to give a singular specific account of how best to take care of your autistic child.
In general, you take care of an autistic child like you take care of a non-autistic child; you support their needs and help them develop into (autistic) adults. What potentially makes this task difficult is understanding what the autistic child needs. This is because what works for a non-autistic child may not work for an autistic child.
Many challenges an autistic child faces are related to having different needs that do not get properly addressed. If a child is melting down because of a sound nobody else can hear… they may be seen as misbehaving instead of having a natural reaction to pain and discomfort. I know that my mind takes in so much information that it takes me longer to process new information. Because of this, I was called a “slow learner” and even “learning disabled”. But to give you an example of how learning disabled I was, I had a private pilot’s license before I had a driver’s license. Albert Einstein also seemed to have had some learning disabilities, including speech delay and dyslexia.Albert Einstein’s dyslexia and the significance of Brodmann Area 39 of his left cerebral cortex
My point is, one of the great tragedies of autism is not being autistic, but being around people who do not understand autism. And this applies to both neurotypical and autistic parents—who, despite or perhaps because they are so concerned with the future of their child, don’t necessarily understand autism, and instead of helping that child be their authentic autistic self, try to change that child into something they are not.
Autistic children are and will always be autistic. So do not try to change them, but help them develop who they are as you would with a non-autistic child.
Do use your life’s experiences to help your child, but also consider whether you are imposing your ideas of what is conducive to a person onto a child that will actually suffer from it. If you are a neurotypical parent with an autistic child, remember that your child cannot use your non-autistic life skills to be autistic any more than you can use their autistic life skills to be who you are. This is not to say you can’t learn from each other and promote mutual growth—you absolutely can! But be aware of the differences, and help your child grow to be the most authentic autistic person they can be, rather than urging them to behave more neurotypically and setting them up for a life of anxiety and self-doubt.
This may leave you wondering how you can help your autistic child to self-actualize (helping them to reach their potential). If you are not autistic or otherwise are not very familiar with what autism is, it’s important that you communicate with autistic adults that can help you understand their own needs—and by extension your child’s. You see the behaviors of your child, but an autistic person is more likely to understand the root cause of the behavior based on personal experience. You need to develop a good rapport with your child, so that:
- They can learn to express their needs.
- They understand you sometimes need help interpreting their behaviors (irrespective of whether you are neurotypical or autistic).
- You become better acquainted with the needs of your child, and how to interpret their behaviors.
As autistic children, we think everyone is like us, and we assume that what is obvious to us is obvious to everyone. This “difference” in life experience is important to understand for everyone’s benefit. Otherwise, it can be a major barrier to that child’s healthy, happy development.
You are not trying to “heal” or change autism. A person’s nervous system can adapt, but cannot be fundamentally changed. Your autistic child can never be “like you” any more than you can be like them. You are trying to understand the child and their autistic needs, and provide the support and guidance they need to develop into functional autistic adults. Just like you would with a non-autistic child, to work with the abilities and needs of that particular child.
Once they learn how to understand and manage themselves, THEN they can start incorporating the non-autistic ways of the world into their lives. They first have to be true to their autistic self before they can learn how their lives function. Because they are—and always will be—autistic.