Autism Awareness Month is almost over. But, awareness isn’t enough. It’s important for individuals with autism and their families to be accepted in our communities. How can you been more accepting?
Today I want to share a few ways that WE ALL can help our community be more accepting of individuals with autism (and really anyone who has a disability or is different). Often I think people mean well but simply don’t know what to do when they encounter someone who is different. Here are a few things that you can do that may help. I can’t speak for everyone who has special needs or who has a child with special needs, but I think it all starts with a little kindness.
1. Acknowledge – If you see someone who is different, say ‘hi’, talk to them. We are all people and want to be acknowledged. No one likes to be ignored.
2. If your child asks you a question about someone they see in public who is different, don’t shy away from it or shush your child. Shushing it makes it seem like there is something wrong with that person. Talk about what you see. Answer your child’s question. For example if you see a child flapping his arms, you could say “You seem really happy!” In some situations, it may be okay to ask the parent if they would mind telling you about their child. It is important to be respectful, but don’t be afraid to talk about it. This will teach your child it is okay to be different.
3. Teach your children about different disabilities. If you don’t know anyone personally, use online videos and pictures to show your child examples of different people. You can talk about the ways that everyone is different. This will help expose your child to many different types of people.
4. Offer friendship, support, inclusion. Like all of us, people and families of individuals with disabilities want to be acknowledged, included, respected. Try to do this any way possible.
5. If you are close to a family who has a child with a disability, offer to babysit. Many families struggle to find a babysitter who they can trust with their child. This can be isolating and exhausting for the parents if they never get a break, or a night away. You may have to put in some extra time with the person to learn more about their needs before the family will feel okay with you babysitting, but what a wonderful way to show how much you care about them!
Do you have other tips? Please leave them in the comments!