- 8October 2018
There are so many things we take for granted till we have intimate experiences with them ourselves. Whether that’s not taking the massive problem sexism at the workplace seriously till someone is sexist to us, or not truly understanding the depth of how far racism goes till a close friend of color narrates their experiences to us, this runs true.
We’re talking about a different –ism today, which is the ableism of how society works in ways that make it harder for autistic kids to exist in it. This is something that becomes especially visible when you have a kid who has autism. It suddenly reveals to you all kinds of things that you didn’t think about before, things that need to change if things are going to get better for kids are differently abled. People in autism research and awareness circles have been pointing this out for years!
Here are 10 things you didn’t know were ableist till you raised your autistic kid:
1. How We Expect People to Express Emotion
Autistic kids feel too! If anything, they feel a lot more intensely than most people. The problem is with how we’ve linked emotional expression with verbalization of emotion. This means that until someone tells us how they’re feeling, or expresses it regularly, we can’t understand what they’re going through.
There are other ways of knowing what someone is feeling however. For example, autistic kids are very sensitive to an overload of sensory things like a lot of noise, etc., and their discomfort shows in how they start to behave, even if they don’t say it. We need to start understanding how different people express emotion, and adapting ourselves too them.
2. How We Structure Work At School
Every kid learns differently, every kid responds to learning techniques teachers employ differently. The assumption that autistic kids will learn in the same way as everyone else is beyond ableist, and the cause of much strife for kids on the spectrum. One early intervention parents can do is tell their child’s teacher that their kid will engage in repetitive behavior that may seem strange to them, but is normal for their kids, maybe even essential so they can process things.
3. Learning the Customer Isn’t Always Right
Autistic kids have a much harder time holding on to jobs when they grow older. This is because a lot of businesses rely on employees doing a certain kind of work in a very specific way. The bodily ticks and repetitive behavior of autistic people is seen by them as something that will make the customer “uncomfortable,” and thus they prefer not to hire them. This is something that needs to change so we can live in a more inclusive world for all types of people.
4. How We Don’t Understand Sensory Overload
Most people can zone out extra noise around them.
When the class bell rings, and hundreds of students filter out of classes, talking at really loud volume, most of us can deal with it. We can filter in who’s talking to us, and filter out everything else. Autistic kids can’t do that, in a large crowd, they’re extremely aware of all the noise around them. This can be extremely overwhelming, making school very hard for them. More care needs to be taken that we don’t overwhelm people who experience sensory stimuli differently.
5. How Strangers Who Are Autistic Are Perceived
Many parents of autistic kids worry that someone will call the police on their kids because they’ll think they’re on some “substance” that’s making them act the way they are behaving in public. This makes both moving around in public, and using public transport a lot harder than it should be. One of the biggest uphill battles for autism awareness is making more people understand how autistic people behave, so it’s safer for them out there.
6. Who Gets Invited to Play-Dates
It’s not uncommon that autistic kids won’t get invited to play-dates or parties, because parents of the other kids think they’re “weird” or “dangerous.” This is a major problem, because autistic kids already have issues with social communication and interaction, exacerbating it is not just ableist, it’s unkind. Parents need to be educated about how to treat autistic kids in their child’s school, so they can also tell their children how to behave around them.
7. Forcing Extra-Curricular Activities On Kids
A lot of autistic kids might have a very limited (but extremely in depth) set of things that they like doing or knowing. It’s very detrimental to their mental health that schools insist on having a strong focus on doing multiple extra-curricular programs, especially in districts where there are already a limited set of activities to begin with. It’s alright for an autistic child to not be willing to take up extra-curricular activities, it’s important that people understand that.
Here at Orange County For Autism, we believe in the power of awareness building to transform the lives of autistic kids. For a breadth of material on autism and autism research, visit our website today.