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Autism

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Proper Manners Concerning People with Autism

During conversations

People with autistic spectrum disorders have a clear understanding of “I” and “you,” but may have difficulty using these pronouns properly in a given conversation. Keep listening attentively until they finish speaking, and then try to ascertain the exact meaning or message they are trying to get across.
E.g.,An autistic person may suddenly say something like “Eating bread,” without indicating who exactly is eating bread, either verbally or by pointing.

Autistic people have difficulty expressing the thoughts or feelings they experience in certain situations. Therefore, try to complete their sentences for them and wait for them to confirm or deny. E.g.,If an autistic child is crying, you may ask “Why are you crying?” and follow up with additional questions, such as“Is it because you are sad, or angry, or frustrated?”

Autistic people may exhibit echolalia, constantly repeating others’ words irrespective of what they truly want to express. When you ask an autistic person to do something with you, ask at least twice, but using different words and in different orders, and try to infer the person’s answer or inclination based on the present context and situation.

People with developmental disorders have difficulty understanding jokes, symbols, and metaphors. Therefore, it is important to use plain, simple words when conversing with them. Make sure you pronounce all of your words clearly and correctly and add gestures or pictures to facilitate their understanding.

Autistic people may sometimes take a long time to answer a question, using delayed echolalia.
E.g.,After having said or asked something, you may hear the autistic person’s answer minutes later or in a completely different setting. An autistic child who keeps uttering “You should not play with the toy” while staring at a toy he likes may in fact be asking for permission to play with that toy.

When interacting with autistic people who have difficulty with verbal communication, you must observe their behavior moreclosely so as to catch any non-verbal messages.

Autistic people may also suffer from intellectual disabilities. Nevertheless, you should use formal language and expressions fit for their age and social position so as to treat them as human beings and with the dignity they deserve.

It may be difficult to spend time with autistic people on a day-to-day basis. However, please try to recognize that they are equal to you as human beings andentitled to the same dignity and rights. This is the first step toward communication and friendship.

Other general matters of concern

Autistic people may have difficulty expressing their feelings and thoughts, but this does not mean they do not experience the same feelings and thoughts as non-autistic people.

Autistic people tend to resist change strongly and find it difficult to adapt to new situations. Draw up a schedule and explain all the details before asking them to follow it. Make sure to abide by the schedule as agreed. Also, the schedule should include drawings and pictures to facilitate understanding. Bear in mind that it takes time for autistic people to develop new habits.
E.g.,The schedule may include such things as: “Start work at 9 a.m.,” “Snack time at 10 a.m.,” or “Pack your bag at 11 a.m.”

If any change is to be made to the schedule, help them adapt by explainingthe changes to them as much as possible and well in advance.

Autistic people may experience severe anxiety when faced with unfamiliar situations, places, procedures, or persons, and exhibit certain behavioral responses (e.g., constantly trying to escape from the situation or howling). Therefore, it is crucial to provide them with adequate explanations and practice before taking them into new situations.

Autistic people can understand and relate to others’ feelings and thoughts only to a limited extent. Their inability to enter into and maintain interactions with others is a major source of misunderstanding about autism.

Music, noises, odors, and certain settings that cause no problemsfor non-autistic people may cause significant distress to autistic people.

Autistic people have difficulty handling emergencies or unexpected situations. Make sure you remain attentive in situations featuring possible hazards, such as boiling water, electric shocks from outlets, and moving cars. As autistic people have difficulty anticipating and protecting themselves against such dangers, it is important to ensure their safety by taking actions over and beyond verbal warnings. Also, make sure you stay close to them at all times.
E.g.,If an autistic person is standing in the street when a car is coming, you should not only shout, “There’s a car coming!”, but also grab them by the arm and move themout of the way.

Autistic people require help with diverse situations in daily life, such as using public facilities, making purchases at stores, using home appliances, and taking public transportation.
E.g., Autistic people understand the concept of money, but may have difficulty calculating the exact amount of money they need to pay at a store. Help them make any payments and keep the receipts to show their caregivers.

Autistic people obsess over certain situations or objects (e.g., Gameboys, televisions, cars, and other such things). The absence of these situations or objects may prevent them from doing what they are supposed to do. Therefore, it is important to plan and stabilize their daily surroundings so as to avoid causing them any confusion.
E.g.,If you are planning to travel with an autistic child who is obsessed with Gameboys, make sure you avoid routes that feature arcades, electronics stores, game stores, and the like.

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