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World Autism Awareness Day – 10 things that a child with autism would tell us, if he could.

World Autism Awareness Day is internationally recognized on 2 April every year. It aims to put a spotlight on the hurdles that people with autism – and others living with autism – face every day.

I’ve read this on the internet and I think it’s something we should keep in mind, in case we ever find a case nearby.

1. I am a child: I have autism. I’m not “autistic”. My autism is just one aspect of my nature. It does not define me as a person. As a child, I’m still developing. Neither you nor I know what I will be able to do later. Defining myself by a single characteristic runs the risk that you settle low expectations for me. And if I feel that you do not believe that I can achieve something, my natural response will not even try.

2. My sensory perceptions are disrupted. It may be the most difficult aspect to understand about autism, but actually it is the most important. It means that the ordinary things that one sees, hears, smells, tastes and touches every day and that many do not even notice, for me can be even painful.

I may seem withdrawn or aggressive but in reality I am just trying to defend myself. A simple trip to the supermarket can be hell: my hearing can be extremely acute. Dozens of people talking at the same time, the speakers giving the specials of the day, the background music, trolleys squeak, fluorescent lights vibrate. My brain can not process all this information and I am overloaded!

3. Vocabulary is a great challenge for meIt’s not that I do not hear the instructions; I do not understand you. When you yell at me from the other side of the room, this is what I hear: “* & amp; ^% $ #, Juan. # $% ^ & amp%% * … “. Come and speak directly to me with simple words: “Please put the book on your desk. It’s time to go home”. This tells me what you want me to do and what will happen next. Now I find it easier to obey you.

4. I interpret the language literally. I get very confused when you tell me: “You will die of cold if you do not wear a coat” when all you want to say is “It’s cold, go put on a coat”. I do not understand idioms, proverbs, double meanings, inferences, metaphors, allusions or sarcasm.

5. Please be patient with my limited vocabulary. I find it difficult to express what I need when I do not know the words to describe my feelings. Maybe I’m hungry, I’m frustrated, scared or confused but at this moment those words are beyond what I can express. Look at my body language, my agitation or other signs that shows something is wrong.

6. I am visually oriented. Please, show me how to do things instead of just telling me. Also, please, be prepared to repeat many times what you teach me, constant repetition is what helps me learn. For example a visual schedule is extremely useful, it takes away the stress of having to remember what to do next. When I grow up, I will not lose the need for a visual schedule, but my “level of representation” may change.

7. Concentrate on what I can do and not on what I can not do. Like any other human being, I can not learn in an environment where they constantly making me feel that I am not good enough and that I need to be “fixed”.

8. Please help me with my social interactions. It may seem that I do not want to play with other children in the playground, but sometimes I just do not know how to start a conversation or play with other children. If you tell other children to invite me to play football or basketball, I may be happy to be included in the game. I develop better in structured games that have a beginning and an end.

I do not know how to “read” facial expressions, body language or the emotions from others, so I appreciate to be trained in how to respond in social situations. For example, if I laugh when Emily falls off the slide in the park, it’s not that I think it’s funny. It’s just that I do not know how to answer. Teach me to ask: “Are you okay?”

9. Tantrums are even more horrible to me than to you. They happen to me because one or more of my senses is overloaded. Try to remember that all behavior is a form of communication. It tells you, when my words can not do it, how I perceive something that is happening in my environment.

10. Love me unconditionally. Eliminate thoughts like, “If only he …” or “Why can´t she …”. You did not live up to each of your parents expectations, and you would not like to be constantly reminded. I did not choose to have autism. But remember that this is happening to me, not you. Without your support, I will have very little chance of becoming a self-sufficient, successful adult. With your support and advice, the possibilities improve more than you imagine. I promise, it’s worth it. And finally, three words: patience, patience, patience.

Consider my autism as a different capacity and not as a disability. Look beyond what you see as a limitation and appreciate the gifts that autism has given me. Have you noticed that I do not lie, I do not cheat in games, I do not cheat on my classmates or judge other people? With my attention to detail and my extraordinary capacity for concentration, it may be the next Einstein … or Mozart … or Van Gogh.

Everything I can become will not happen without your support.