When supporting children and young people with autism, it is always useful and beneficial to those being supported to imagine and understand things from their perspective. Meeting one person with autism means you have met one person with autism, but any perspective can lend itself to increased understanding and awareness for people working to support those with autism.
To help us see what it’s like from a young person’s perspective, one of our members has recorded his thoughts and feelings. Shay, aged 11, has been with us for a few years and has recorded this message:
‘I really like structure to my day and following routines. Showing me this visually really helps. Please prepare me for changes and new situations in advance. I can cope with change but I really need a heads up.
Please don’t talk too much to me, too much verbal information can be very overwhelming. Keep sentences short and simple. Give me time to process what you have said. Understand that I may not be able to shift my focus rapidly, from one task to the next. I need more time to do this; either expect me to look or listen to you, I find it difficult to do both at the same time.
When I am not looking at you, it doesn’t mean I am not listening, it can actually mean the opposite. I may spin or engage in repetitive behaviour because it brings me comfort and a sense of safety. It can help me to feel calm, particularly if I am in a busy or noisy environment.
Please don’t underestimate my thinking or abilities, I may know a lot more than what you think.
Please, please, please do things with me that build my confidence and self-esteem. It can be difficult being reprimanded or corrected all the time. Respect me for who I am – I am doing all that I can to make sense of this complex world that we live in.
I am here in your class, this is a huge achievement for me, it takes a lot of energy and effort for me to be here. See me as an individual.
My autism creates many difficulties for me but I have many strengths. Help me and other children around me to see this too.’
A special thanks goes to Shay and his family for allowing us to use and share this recording.