Ten Commandments for Interacting With Kids On The Autism Spectrum by Mari Nosal and related Commandments!!!
A bit about the author–>
About the author
Mari Nosal has written 12 articles for Enabled Kids.
Mari Nosal, M.Ed., CECE is a school coordinator, blogger and author. She is certified by the Department of Early Childhood Education as a lead preschool teacher, an infant and toddler teacher, and site coordinator qualified to manage school age programs. She is certified in Community Crisis Intervention by the Community Crisis Intervention Team of Bristol County. As a parent of a son with Asperger’s, she and her son show others how it is possible to overcome obstacles and achieve your goals.
Ten Commandments for Interacting With Kids On The Autism Spectrum
1. Thou shall not yell when speaking to me.
My disability does not impair my hearing and I am extremely bright. Perhaps even brighter than you are.
2. Thou shall not ignore me, talk negatively about me, speak unnaturally slow, or ask questions to others in the room that pertain to me.
I can comprehend what you are saying just fine.
3. Thou shall believe in me and help me believe in my skills and self worth.
Note the good in me and do not merely point out my negative behaviors. Believe in me and I will believe in myself.
4. Thou shall not perceive me as dumb.
I am extremely intelligent. I do not learn in the same way as you, and maybe not as quickly as you expect me to. Have patience with me. Once I recall information, I never forget.
5. Thou shall not judge my behavior.
I can get overstimulated in certain environments. I may be hypersensitive to sound and loud noises may hurt my ears. Fluorescent lights are distracting for me. They have a humming noise, and can pulsate. All the noises in a room can blur together. Please make accommodations to help me.
6. Thou shall not be so quick to scold me.
Do not tell me that “I know what I did”. I do not. Tell me what my infraction was in a simple, concise manner. I want to please you, but I have difficulties inferring meaning within a vague statement. For instance, do not say please clean up your bedroom. Tell me exactly what you want, such as ‘Please make your bed and pick up your toys”.
7. Thou shall not compare me to others.
Please remind me, and note the talents that I possess. This increases my confidence and positive self worth. Learning disabled or not, we ALL have talents to contribute within society. I need you to help me realize what mine is. Believe in me and I will believe in myself.
8. Thou shall not exclude me from activities.
Please do not mimic me, ignore me, or bully me. Please invite me to play with you. It hurts my feelings when I am excluded. I like to run and jump in the playground, and be invited to birthday parties too. Grownups can help me make friends by encouraging other children to play with me. I can be a loyal friend if you get to know me.
9. Thou shall give me choices.
I do not like being ordered about any more than the other children. Give me choices so I know you value my capabilities and opinions. Make them simple and concise. Present two options or so. I get confused when too many questions or directions are given at one time due to my processing speed. For instance, ask me if I would like to wear my blue sweater or green one, rather than asking which sweater I would like to wear.
10. Thou shall not judge me by my diagnosis, but by my character.
I am an individual, just like other children. As my son used to say, “Mom my name is John (name changed for his anonymity) not Asperger’s”. A profound statement I would say. :-0)
Part Two: Ten Commandments of Parents with Kids on the Autism Spectrum
1) Thou shall not avoid my family when you see us in a public place. Autism is not a communicable disease. It is merely a way of life. You will not catch it by being my friend. Hang out with me and my family and learn about us. Once you understand our challenges it will be self-evident that we have hopes, dreams, and feelings. We love our children just as much as you love yours. Who knows, you might grow to accept us if you give us a chance.
2) Thou shall not judge my family. If my child is having a meltdown and seems inconsolable, do not assume I am an incompetent parent. You cannot always judge a book by its cover. Do not tell me that my child is spoiled. Ask me why I cannot control him, or tell me that my child needs to be punished. He is already punished enough by remarks from people who assume they know what is best for my family, even when they do not even know us. I am attempting to be a good parent. Your negative remarks hurt me greatly. Your positive remarks give me the internal strength to go on, and rejuvenate my belief in me and my child.
3) Thou shall be patient. My child may have a large expressive vocabulary. This is rote knowledge that has been memorized. In this case, he may not process (receptive language) what others say unless it is presented in a literal, concise, and direct manner. My child may lack a large vocabulary (expressive vocabulary) but make no mistake that he can comprehend you through his receptive vocabulary. Get to know my child and convey messages through his learning style. You will be surprised at what a wonderful child he is if you get to know him.
4) Thou shall not snub my other children. It is difficult for neurotypical siblings to grow up with a sibling that has special needs. My heart breaks for my children when other children decline sleepovers, parties, and more because of my special needs child. Providing equal attention to all my children is quite the balancing act.. Their learning disabled sibling occasionally requires more time and energy then them. This is not by choice but necessity. Please make a point to help out and make my other children feel welcome at your home or functions.
5) Thou shall not judge my housekeeping skills. My house may occasionally be in disarray. That mess is a sign of love; a sign of a family that has placed priorities on going to therapy appointments, doctors, social groups, and more over the importance of several dust balls. We balance jobs, carpools, and daycare, just like the rest of society as well.
6) Thou shall believe in my child. Do not call my child stupid, lazy, spoiled, selectively deaf, a brat, and more. My child has a neurological impairment which can affect processing skills, focusing, expressive or receptive speech, and internal control mechanisms, i.e. “losing it”. There is an old phrase, “We become what we hear.” The self-fulfillment prophecy is alive and well. My child tries hard to learn, control his behavior, socialize, etc. Please attempt to tell him what is right with him, not only what is wrong. Role model appropriate behavior for the child. Children become what children see.
7) Thou shall accept me and my family for who we are. My child may not appear to have challenges on the exterior. Appearances can be deceiving. I can equate this with a cast. If an individual is wearing a cast, we know they have a broken arm. Children with autism often appear the same as all other children When you deal with my child, please remember that his emotional age is roughly four years behind his chronological age. Keep that in mind when creating expectations for him. My child cannot be fixed.. He can be smothered with acceptance. HisAsperger’s has created the young man that we have grown to love and admire. We would not change him for anything. He and I both needs society’s acceptance.
Thou shall not assume my child is being defiant. My child’s difficulties with receptive language can mimic defiance. When directions are not broken down into literal simple steps, he may appear to be ignoring you. He is not being defiant. He did not understand your directions. Tell him to pick up the books in the classroom, put them on the bookshelf, than sit down. This will most often result in compliance. Do not just say “put the books away”. He most likely will not know which books, where, when, or how. Be patient, as he really wants to please you.
9) Thou shall tell parents of autistic kids what they do well:.We struggle with our child’s special needs, attempt to carve out time with our other children so they do not feel left out, carve out time for our spouse, attempt to create a copacetic environment for our families, love and accept unconditionally, and more. We parents are occasionally insecure regarding our parenting skills. We are not immune to the glaring disapproving eyes, and mumbles of disapproval regarding our parenting style of our special needs kids. We need support and understanding from you as we feel helpless when we cannot help our child during a meltdown, etc. Please tell us what we do right occasionally and offer to lend a hand. It means the world to a parent of a special needs child to receive a compliment regarding them or their child when the parent feels like giving up hope.
10) Last but not least, thou shall remember that we are all on this earth to make a contribution to society.Children on the spectrum make contributions as well. You just have to look a little deeper. For me, my son has taught me to be more patient, humbled me, taught me to look at what is good now and not worry about what may not happen ten years down the road. I do not take things for granted because of my experiences. My husband and I learned the meaning of teamwork. Most of all, my son has taught me to never underestimate what strides he will make in our world. It may be on his timeframe and not mine. We are climbing to the peak of the mountain, with occasional slips, but climbing higher every day none the less.
Part Three: Ten Commandments For Educators Who Teach Kids on the Autism Spectrum
1) Thou shall not perceive me as a diagnosis. It is not true that once you have worked with an autistic child, you have worked with them all. There are many different degrees of autism–hence the meaning of the term, “AutismSpectrum.” We have distinct personalities and talents, just like you. We may present ourselves as nonverbal, verbal, have advanced expressive vocabularies, receptive vocabularies, be aggressive, shy, funny, or ambulatory. We may have mobility issues, be extremely social or shy, or have gifted IQs, or low IQs. Spend time getting to know me. You may learn to appreciate my talents, and the contributions that I can make within the classroom and to my classmates.
2) Thou shall not assume that I am defiant. :-0) My ears are extremely sensitive. If I am sitting at my desk and you give me directives from the other side of the classroom, I may not hear you correctly. I have difficulty desensitizing myself from sounds. I may be struggling with attempting to block out the whirring of a pencil sharpener, ticking clock, rain beating on the window pane, and the humming of the fluorescent lights. They often hurt my ears and create one jumbled sound. The sound may be so intrusive to my sensitive ears that they hurt. If you want to give me directions, please walk over to me and look me in the eye to get my attention. Be specific and concise when conveying what you wish for me to accomplish. I am a concrete thinker. For instance, ask me to get my coat from the coatroom, than go back to my desk and sit down, and wait to be excused for recess. Do not merely say, get ready for recess. This is too obscure. I want to please you, I really do, but you need to helpme out with this.
3) Thou shall help me learn to socialize with my peers. I may appear to be avoiding my classmates. This does not mean I do not want to socialize. Children on the spectrum want friends and need to be included just like anyone else. My issue is that I often do not know how. Perhaps you could encourage the other children to include me in their games. You could role model proper techniques for social interaction, how to read body language, and empathize. For instance, if my classmate has a bellyache, you could point out that his tummy hurts and that maybe I should tell him I hope he feels better soon.
4) Thou shall catch me being good. Please make an attempt to point out my positive behavior, actions, and character traits. If I only hear about what is wrong with me, I will feel as though I am unworthy and withdraw. If I merely get attention from you when I am in the midst of a meltdown, or presenting inappropriate behavior, I may become conditioned to misbehave so I can gain your attention. This is the self fulfilling prophecy at work. Give me positive attention through praise, and you will build my positive self-efficacy. Help me believe in myself. If all I receive is negative attention, I will still crave it. Remember: in this case, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
5) Thou shall not attempt to embarrass me. Please do not compare me to siblings who were in your class. Do not compare me to classmates, embarrass me, or mimic me if I am frustrated. That hurts my feelings, and leaves me feeling more frustrated. I work twice as hard as my neurotypical peers to perform academically and socially. Embarrassing me will not force me to “straighten out’. That will merely force me to withdraw further within the academic environment, because I feel as though I cannot measure up to your expectations of me. Please try to remember that my emotional age is behind my chronological age. Please treat the behavior, not the child. I depend on you for external control.
6) Thou shall practice reflective observation and remediation. If I become distracted, hyperactive, speak out of turn, or agitated, please attempt to find out why I am doing so. It is easier to prevent a behavioral issue than to try and remediate it afterwards. If you notice the early warning signs, you may be able to make adaptations to prevent escalation. Once my behavior has gotten out of hand it will be difficult to assist me with getting back on task. Simple techniques may work. If I am having difficulty focusing, seem agitated, or become socially inappropriate, the bright fluorescent lights may be hurting my eyes. Please remember that my five senses are hypersensitive and I can become over-stimulated by everyday sights, smells, and sounds. Perhaps, dimming the lights in the room may calm me down. If I appear hyperactive, perhaps you could find a job for me to do in the classroom. The job could be as simple as making me a helper and asking me to hand out paper, or art supplies to the other children, pass out homework etc. so I can stretch my legs without being singled out in front of my classmates. If I am distracted by the other children while expected to take a test, perhaps you will allow me to wear earplugs to squelch my hypersensitivity to noise. I know I can be a lot of work at times, especially in a inclusive classroom. It is worth your effort, I assure you. It is a win-win situation for me and my classmates. They will learn to accept and respect differences in people through their interactions with me. They will carry this empathy into adulthood and the workplace. In turn, I will learn appropriate social skills through observation of my neurotypical classmates. With your assistance, the other children will learn to note and appreciate my talents and contributions within the classroom. I will learn how to be a member of a group who appreciates me. This in turn will boost my positive self-efficacy.
7) Thou shall not attempt to fix me. I cannot be fixed. I am not the equivalent of a broken engine in your automobile that merely needs some adjustments here and there to run like new. Besides, my mom and dad say they like me just the way I am. Respect me for the gifts and talents that I bring into your classroom (and I have many!). You can help me by teaching me compensatory strategies. For instance, teach me to go to a quiet area in the class to read, or to play quietly when I am over-stimulated. At first, I may need many verbal or physical prompts from you to recognize the signs of over-stimulation. As time goes by, I will internalize this mode of redirection through repetition and go to my quiet places independently. Remember to praise me verbally, or with a reward when I do so. I need to know that you noticed–it makes me feel proud of myself. For example, I may love to write but have issues with my pincer grip. Holding a pencil makes my hand hurt. Perhaps you could put a gripper on my pencil to increase my grasp and initiative to write so I do not go on strike during lessons.
8. Thou shall not say negative things about me. Please do not speak poorly of me to other teachers, parents, or students. My feelings get hurt when I observe you telling other individuals that I am a handful, that I take away time from the other students, shouldn’t be in your class, or push your buttons. Please do not refer to me as a bad seed, “that” one, a hateful child, unlikable, lazy, or defiant. This is unprofessional and inappropriate, especially when you talk while I am in the room. If you speak negatively of me and I misbehave, I am following your negative expectations of me, and living up to them. I may learn differently, but I can hear and comprehend your unkind conversations. I am not a diagnosis; I am a child like all the other children in my class. Please remember, I am dependent on you to help me hone my skills and succeed in life. I need your support.
9) Thou shall differentiate instruction. Differentiated instruction does not mean giving me different assignments or dumbed down assignments. Differentiated instruction is done by making accommodations so I can be included in the same projects and assignments as my classmates. If we are using shaving cream paint duringart class, I may not want to put my hands in it due to sensitivity to textures. Perhaps you could offer me a tongue depressor to put the shaving cream on. This way, I can do the same art project as my peers while taking my sensitivity to textures into account. If we are doing a group history project on the colonial era, you may take advantage of my visual perception. I may not read well, but may be capable of building a scale model of a fort. Thus other children could research and present a report and I could provide the props. Perhaps you could allow me to take a spelling test which contains the same words as the other children orally if I have difficulty with handwriting. If we are presenting a play, the loud music and crowd may bother me. Perhaps I could change props, or be in charge of opening and closing the curtains during the performance instead.
10) Thou shall perceive as a human being. Please remember that every child has both positive and negative traits. Attempt to teach me what mine is are. Your investment in me will pay off in the future. Who knows, with a little help from my teacher, I could grow up to be the next leader of our country. I believe in you, will you believe in me?
I especially love her quote–>”Please join me in my utopian world where society perceives individuals as a whole, and does not judge them merely in character segments.”
I would like to thank Mari for allowing us to publish her information here on our news and autism site.
If everyone would just live by them.