Have you noticed that removing all but the second and next-to-the-last letters in the word, “AUTISM,” leaves the word “US?” When I present on autism, I often remind audiences that focusing on autism should never be a quest to find out “what’s wrong with them.” Instead, it should be about US, and how we can be more understanding, more flexible, more helpful, and more tolerant. It should also be about how we can be better parents, better teachers, better siblings, better thinkers, and better friends.
The first step is to better understand ourselves, and our unique CONTEXT. What do we know about autism? How have our experiences, our personality, the things we’ve read, and the people we’ve met shaped our understanding of autism and our potential responses to people with this diagnosis? What strategies do we have available to help us be effective parents, educators, or others interacting with people with autism?
The strategies we use may be “innate” strategies such as theory of mind, gestalt processing, executive functioning, or social and emotional intelligence (what I refer to as the “building blocks of social understanding and social effectiveness.”) We may use calming strategies, sensory integration tools, or specific teaching strategies such as Social Stories™, Social Behavior Mapping™, the Social Response Pyramid™, The Incredible 5-Point Scale™ (all of which are available from The Gray Center at www.thegraycenter.org), or The Planner Guide™.
Invariably, most of us find that as we strive to truly know each individual with autism (his/her individual CONTEXT, STRATEGIES, authentic RESPONSES and reasons for them, and awareness of the SOCIAL COINTEXT), and are passionate about helping them to be successful, we do indeed become better parents, better teachers, better siblings, better thinkers, and better friends.