5 Facts About Autism I Want Everyone to Know
Renée Bugg, is a mother of 10-year-old Poss who has autism and generalised anxiety. Renée blogs at About A Bugg to “share our world and show others that our world isn’t that different from theirs”. Here, she shares what she wishes more people knew about autism.
1. Everyone on the spectrum is special
Poss was 5 years old when she was diagnosed with Autism, and there's no doubt there is a period of adjustment. We went through a process where we grieved for the life we thought she would have. But in time, we realised that the diagnosis is just a label that helps her get access to support, and she's still the same great person she always was.
What we've learned is that everyone on the spectrum is different. There is a saying that "you meet one person with Autism, you've met one person with Autism". This means that each and every Autistic person will have individual challenges - just like everyone else for that matter!
For us, Poss is incredibly quick-witted, smart and is an incredible judge of character – she really takes people on how they make her feel. She is creative and loves to write and draw, but coding and gaming is bring her the most joy. Technology will be the world she lives in.
2. Control is important
The world can be scary for Autistic people; it can be bright, noisy, scratchy and confusing. We've come to realise that for Poss, often her behaviour is a result of her trying to control the things she can control, so she can cope better with the things she can't.
For example, Poss doesn’t like her foods to touch each other on her plate, so if we give her bacon and eggs, the eggs, toast and bacon have to sit separately on the plate.
These are little things, which as parents can sometimes be annoying, yet they provide Poss with comfort. We're learning to respect that and help find ways we can make her world more predictable and calm.
3. Assumptions aren’t helpful
Like most parents of Autistic children, we've had moments in public places where Poss has become overwhelmed and had a meltdown.
Sometimes her behaviour can be like that of a toddler, but she looks like a ‘tween’, and so people make quick assumptions that she is naughty or a brat or that we are bad parents, but in fact, she is struggling in that environment.
Occasionally I’ll explain that she's Autistic, but that's challenging in itself; you want your child to thrive in their own way, but you also don't want them to be judged unfairly. This is where better awareness of Autism in the general community can only be a good thing.
4. A little kindness goes a long way
When these things do happen in public, the best thing people can do is be kind. By just taking a moment to see if we need help, goes an extremely long way.
I once had a lady stop and ask me if I needed someone to watch my bags while I stepped outside with Poss. Another time a guy stopped with his dog to see if she'd like to pat the puppy.
Small things, sure. But I'll never forget that small kindness.
5. The empathy thing is a myth
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There's a myth that 'autistic people don't have empathy', but I would beg to differ. When I hear people say that, I share the story of Poss' 10th birthday.
Parties are pretty stressful for her, so when we asked her what she wanted to do to celebrate, she said she just wanted to play Minecraft with her friends on Autcraft, which is a private, online community of children with autism.
Kids from all over the world arranged to be online with her at the same time to celebrate, taking time out of their days to help make hers special. It was the most touching, heartwarming act of kindness. She was overwhelmed but in the best way possible.