Autism spectrum disorders affect the way a person’s body and brain work. People with autism may have trouble speaking or communicating in a social situation. Nearly 30% of individuals on the spectrum are nonverbal. They often don’t communicate as much as others do; are sensitive to noise, light, and textures; and may prefer to sit quietly in a corner.
However, these traits don’t undermine the fact that people on the spectrum are capable, passionate, intelligent, and honest. The onus is on the neurotypicals to be sensitive toward them. Individuals on the spectrum are just as capable of getting along well with others as those without autism. They key, however, is to know how to break the ice and approach them with an open heart.
When you meet people on the spectrum, don’t try to change them to what you consider acceptable. You must be sensitive to the fact that they are doing their best to interact with you, much the same way you are doing your best to communicate with them. Accept a person with autism as they are, and you might just be surprised with their ability to build lifelong friendships.
Respect sensory differences
What’s normal to most neurotypicals can be unbearable to someone with autism. A person on the spectrum is often hypersensitive to sights, sounds, taste, smell, and touch. A high-pitched sound, even that of a door bell, could be painful to their ears. A good friend will be aware of the sensory differences in a person with autism, even if they don’t understand the exact reasons behind it. People on the spectrum should not be taken as intellectually disabled. Many people with autism have high IQs and excel in their fields.
Communicate with clarity and be patient
It often helps to speak in short sentences and not to try to convey too much information at once. Gestures, facial expressions, and pictures are known to work well with people on the spectrum. Try to speak literally instead of using metaphors and figures of speech. You may not always get a prompt response, so be patient.
Stand up and speak up
A person with autism is likely to face abuse, bullying, and humiliation on a regular basis. Whenever you see someone being teased or bullied, stand up and protest. Working to end the stigma, isolation, and violence against individuals with autism and other disabilities ultimately benefits the society at large. People on the spectrum are often picked up for the wrong reason. Standing up for their rights will induce a sense of belongingness among them.
Never treat people on the spectrum like some project
Many people stress on forging a friendship with a person on the spectrum. People with autism don’t need pity friendships or charity. They don’t want people to look past their autism since the disorder is an integral part of who they are. Do you include your friend on the spectrum in events and gatherings with other friends? Is your perception based on the stereotypes about autism and other different abilities? If the first answer is ‘yes’ and the second ‘no’, you have a healthy and positive relationship with your friend on the spectrum.