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Dawn Meyers
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Dawn Meyers   My Press Releases

What a Child with Autism Wants You To Know,But Can't Tell You

Published on 5/23/2012
For additional information  Click Here

What a child with Autism wants you to know, but can't tell you. I am a child with autism. I am not "autistic". My autism is one aspect of my total character. It does not define me as a person. My sensory perceptions are disordered. This means the ordinary sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches of everyday life that you may not even notice can be downright painful for me. The very environment in which I have to live often seems hostile to me. I may appear withdrawn or belligerent to you, but I am really just trying to defend myself. A simple trip to the grocery store may be hell for me. Dozens of people are talking at once. The loudspeaker booms today's special. Music whines from the sound system. Cash registers beep and cough. A coffee grinder is chugging away. The meat cutter screeches, babies wail, carts creak, the fluorescent lighting hums. My brain can't filter all the input and I'm in overload! My sense of smell may be highly sensitive. The fish isn't quite fresh, the guy standing next to us hasn't showered today, the deli is handing out sausage samples, the baby in line ahead of us has a poopy diaper, they're mopping up pickles in Aisle 3 with ammonia... I can't sort it out, I'm too nauseous! Because I'm visually oriented, this may be my first sense to become overstimulated. The flourescent light is too bright. It makes the room pulsate and hurts my eyes. Sometimes the light bounces off everything and distorts what I'm seeing. The space seems to be constantly changing. There's glare from windows, moving fans on the ceiling, so many bodies in constant motion, too many items for me to be able to focus, and I may compensate with tunnel vision. All this affects my vestibular sense, and now I can't even tell where my body is in space. I may stumble, bump into things, or simply lay down to try to regroup. Please remember to distinguish between won't (I choose not to) and can't (I'm not able to). Receptive and expressive language are both difficult for me. It isn't that I don't listen to instructions. It's that I can't understand you. When you call to me from across the room, this is what I hear. "!!%#@%*^, Parker (*&)^^$%$" Instead, come speak directly to me in plain words. "Please put your book in your desk. It's time to go to lunch." This tells me what you want me to do, and what is going to happen next. Now it's much easier for me to comply. I am a concrete thinker. I interpret language literally. It's very confusing for me when you say "Hold your horses cowboy!" when what you really mean is "Please Stop running." Don't tell me something is a "piece of cake" when there's no dessert in sight and what you really mean is "This will be easy for you to do". When you say "It's pouring cats and dogs", I see pets coming out of a pitcher. Please just tell me "It's raining very hard". Be patient with my limited vocabulary. It's hard for me to tell you what I need when I don't know the words to describe my feelings. I may be hungry, frustrated, frightened, or confused, but right now those words are beyond my ability to express. Be alert for body language, withdrawal, agitation, or other signs that something's wrong. Because language is so difficult for me, I am very visually oriented. Show me how to do something rather than just telling me. And please be prepared to show me many times. Lots of patient repetition helps me to learn. A visual schedule is extremely helpful as I move through my day. Like your day planner, it relieves me of the stress of having to remember what comes next. Focus and build on what I can do rather than what I can't do. Like any other human, I can't learn in an environment where I'm constantly made to feel that I'm not good enough or that I need fixing. Trying anything new when I am almost sure to be met with criticism, however constructive, becomes something to be avoided. Look for my strengths and you'll find them. There's more than one right way to do most things. Help me with social interactions. It may look like I don't want to play with the other kids on the playground, but sometimes it's just that I simply don't know how. If you can encourage other children to invite me to join them, I may be delighted to be included. Try to identify what triggers my meltdowns or whatever you want to call them. They are even more horrid for me than they are for you. They occur because one or more of my senses have gone into overload. If you can figure out why my meltdowns occur, they can be prevented. If you are a family member, please love me unconditionally. Banish thoughts like "If he would just..." and "Why can't she..." You didn't fulfill every last expectation your parents had for you, and you wouldn't like being constantly reminded of it. I didn't choose to have autism. Remember that it's happening to me, not you. Without your support, my chances of successful, self-reliant adulthood are slim. With your support and guidance, the possibilities are broader than you might think. I promise you that I'm worth it. Work to view my autism as a different ability rather than a disability. Look past what you may see as limitations and see the gifts that autism has given me. I may not be good at eye contact or conversation, but have you noticed that I don't lie, cheat at games, tattle on my classmates, or pass judgment on other people? You are my foundation. Think through some of those societal rules and if they don't make sense for me, let them go. Be my advocate, be my friend, and we'll see just how far I can go. I probably won't be the next Michael Jordan, but with my attention to fine detail and capacity for extraordinary focus, I might be the next Einstein. Or Mozart. Or Van Gogh. They had autism too. Ellen Notbohm A mix of her words
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