According to a survey conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 out of every 40 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism. Many people find it difficult to communicate with such children. A 4-minute animated video created by director Alexander Amelines for the National Autistic Society aims to provide quick info on autism for a non-autistic audience.
The animated video starts off by reminding us that we are all different and that it is okay to be that way. It classifies human differences into two groups — those that can be seen and those that cannot be seen. “Seeable” differences in people include height, hairstyle, skin color, eye color, gender, and so on. “Unseeable” differences would include preferred food, fears, special skills, and so on.
Essentially, the video is teaching people that all brains work differently. As a result, people also end up having differences in terms of how they learn things, what interests them, how they feel about certain events, how they communicate, and so on. In some cases, the brains of certain people might be connected in a manner that has a significant effect on the senses, thereby affecting the way such individuals perceive things, read a situation, and interact with others. This is basically called autism.
The unique connections in the brain of an autistic person can make them good at certain tasks that we may find difficult — like music, mathematics, drawing, etc. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Things that a normal person can do might be too difficult for someone with autism, like making friends, having an engaging conversation, and so on.
Since the communication between the senses and brain of an autistic person can be slightly off, the brain can become overwhelmed and confused. As such, a simple walk down the road can prove to be scary for such people since traffic lights, car noises, shouting people, barking dogs, etc., can create an environment that is terrifying.
The sad fact is that kids with autism often choose to act normal despite feeling scared and threatened. They also develop behaviors and habits to cope with such stress, which can often look ridiculous to others. And when people make fun of them, it can end up making these kids even more isolated from society.
Dealing with autism
Parents might consider dealing with autistic children to be a stressful task. Oftentimes, the kids can have intense tantrums and meltdowns that can be difficult to control. Such tantrums often occur because of the failure to secure a desired object or in reaction to some sensory stimulation. An important thing to do in such situations is not to be too aggressive or patronizing with them.
Lenore Koppelman, a New York mom of a 9-year-old autistic boy named Ralph, shares how she deals with him at Care: “If we tell him to ‘calm down’ or to ‘stop being upset,’ that only makes things worse… It belittles how upset he feels. Ralph is fully entitled to his feelings, and while his meltdowns might make others uncomfortable, we decided to care more about what he feels and what he needs than the comfort of total strangers all around him.”
There are various therapies that can be administered to autistic children to help them deal with their issues. Occupational Therapy aims at helping kids get better at everyday tasks, like holding a fork at the dinner table, tying their shoelaces, buttoning their shirt, and so on. Speech Therapy focuses on developing the speaking skills of autistic kids and can also include non-verbal skills. Therapies like Applied Behavior Analysis, Picture Exchange Communication System, and Therapeutic Horseback Riding can also be helpful.