So today, my title is a little bit different, but I’ve been musing on this question a lot of late- are we making excuses for autists?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first person to advocate the need for understanding and acceptance for those of us on the spectrum- but there is a fine line between making exceptions and making excuses.
I have seen people that were given all of the support and understanding that I grew up without, and yet they do not seem to function as well as I do. Granted there are varying levels of need and functionality within the community, but one has to wonder if excuses have been made. Certainly teachers have told me about spectrum kids where parents have insisted that their child is “not able” for various school activities.
If raised in a protective autism friendly bubble, what happens when your supports go away in adulthood? How can you cope in the real world if people have spent your whole life excusing your behaviour?
Tells a stranger they look like a troll- “He has Asperger’s!”
Struggles with a maths problem- “She’s not able, she’s autistic!”
Throws a plate in a restaurant- “I can’t help it, I’m on the spectrum!”
If you tried anything like that last one as an adult you would be arrested not excused!
Yes being autistic is a challenge, yes we can’t always control impulses, meltdowns or our tongues, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t improve. If we are never called out on our behaviour, we will continue to think that it’s ok to tell people that they look like a troll for example, and one day we will say it to the wrong person- bye bye friend, or job opportunity; maybe even hello fist!
I know it’s not easy to scold an autistic child, we don’t understand how or why we’re in trouble, or even what we did wrong sometimes- which often triggered meltdowns for me growing up; but here are some tips on how to approach this situation:
- Reassure them that they are not in trouble- This can be critical. As you know, we autists are black and white thinkers. We see the world in good and bad. If something we do is bad, then we perceive our whole selves to be bad. Our brains struggle to handle anything less than perfection- and we all know what happens when our brains can’t handle something! #meltdownalert
- Explain why the behaviour was bad- The key here is to not excuse the behaviour, but to explain it to us. If we understand why, then we are far less likely to be overwhelmed. “You’re not in trouble Aoife, but it’s not nice to….because… So try to remember that next time ok?“
- Create Rules– Rules are essential to modifying our behaviours. We live our lives by them, and yet when it comes to social rules we just don’t have a clue! If you create some for us however, we will be all the better for it 🙂
- Use reward systems to encourage positive behaviours- As I’ve discussed previously, my mother found it particularly effective to use rewards to encourage me towards better habits such as studying and holding my temper
I’m not saying that we autists need to conform and be “normal” (as I always say- it’s overrated!), but for our own sakes, we cannot make excuses for every single autistic behaviour. So try new things, fall off that bike a dozen times or tackle that equation. If we automatically say that we “can’t”- then we will never reach our potential.
We may get it wrong, but oh, what if we succeed? 🙂